Increased vascular calcification in patients receiving warfarin

Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2015 Jan;35(1):237-42. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.114.304392. Epub 2014 Oct 16.


Objective: Matrix gla protein is a vitamin K-dependent inhibitor of medial arterial calcification whose synthesis and activity are blocked by warfarin. Warfarin induces arterial calcification in experimental models, but whether this occurs in humans is unclear. This was addressed by examining breast arterial calcification, which is exclusively medial and easily identified on mammograms.

Approach and results: Screening mammograms from women with current, past, or future warfarin use were examined for the presence of arterial calcification and compared with mammograms obtained in untreated women matched for age and diabetes mellitus. Women with a serum creatinine >2.0 mg/dL or a history of end-stage renal disease were excluded. In 451 women with mammograms performed after ≥1 month of warfarin therapy, the prevalence of arterial calcification was 50% greater than in 451 untreated women (39.0% versus 25.9%; P<0.0001). However, in 159 mammograms performed before warfarin therapy, the prevalence of arterial calcification was not increased (26.4% versus 25.8%). The increased prevalence varied with duration of treatment, from 25.0% for <1 year to 74.4% for >5 years. In a multivariable logistic model, only age and duration of warfarin, but not the period of time after stopping warfarin, were significant determinants of arterial calcification in women with current or past warfarin use.

Conclusions: The prevalence of breast arterial calcification is increased in women with current or past warfarin use independent of other risk factors and conditions predating warfarin use. This effect appears to be cumulative and may be irreversible.

Keywords: anticoagulation; matrix proteins; vascular calcification.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects*
  • Breast Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Breast Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Breast Diseases / epidemiology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Mammography
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors
  • Vascular Calcification / chemically induced*
  • Vascular Calcification / diagnostic imaging
  • Vascular Calcification / epidemiology
  • Warfarin / administration & dosage
  • Warfarin / adverse effects*


  • Anticoagulants
  • Warfarin