Background: Mechanical heart valve replacement requires lifelong anticoagulant treatment. Aspirin has proved useful in further reducing thromboembolic events when added to oral anticoagulants. However, increased (gastrointestinal) bleeding was observed at the doses previously tested for this combination in heart valve prostheses.
Methods: We performed a prospective randomized trial to compare the combination of low-intensity oral anticoagulants (international normalized ratio 2.5 to 3.5) plus aspirin (100 mg/day) (arm A) versus high-intensity oral anticoagulants alone (arm B) (international normalized ratio 3.5 to 4.5). Arm A included 258 patients and arm B 245 patients. The two groups were comparable for all baseline characteristics.
Results: The outcomes of the study were embolism, valve thrombosis, and major hemorrhage. The median follow-up was 23 months. The two treatments offered similar antithrombotic protection. The incidence of embolic episodes was 1.32 per 100 patient-years (95% confidence interval 0.53 to 2.7) for arm A and 1.48 per 100 patient-years (95% confidence interval 0.59 to 3.03) for arm B. Major hemorrhage occurred in 1.13 per 100 patient-years (95% confidence interval 0.41 to 2.45) for arm A and 2.33 per 100 patient-years (95% confidence interval 1.17 to 4.14) for arm B. Gastrointestinal bleeding was not increased by this combined reduced dose of aspirin and coumarin.