Safety indicators confirmed for common treatment of heart defect

July 3, 2012, University of Manchester

A new study by medical scientists coordinated from the University of Manchester has for the first time used patients' results to establish that "safety indicators" for people taking anticoagulant drugs to regulate a common heart condition are correct.

More than 760,000 patients in the UK have atrial fibrillation (AF), a defect that causes an irregular heart rate. It is also known to increase the risk and severity of stroke.

The main treatment used to regulate the condition is an anticoagulant drug called which prevents the blood from forming clots so easily. This treatment also lowers the risk of a stroke by about two thirds.

The recommendation to use anticoagulation for patients with AF was circulated to all NHS hospitals and practices last year in a Commissioning Safety Document.

However, there are risks associated with the drug as too little anticoagulation results in thrombosis but too much can result in haemorrhage. Both can be fatal. Patients therefore require frequent monitoring and dose adjustments.

Part of monitoring is measuring a patients' international normalized ratio (INR). In healthy people, the INR is about 1.0. For patients on anticoagulants, the INR typically should be between 2.0 and 3.0. However there had been no large scale studies to establish the danger INR level in patients with AF.

Medical scientists working with the European Action on Anticoagulation which is organised from the University of Manchester tested 5839 patients with AF. The INR for each case was monitored by blood tests which were independently assessed. Any clinical events, such as bleeding or , were also monitored and matched to the patient's INR reading.

The study found that in patients starting to take who had a bleeding episode 9.5% had at least one INR result that was greater than 5.0. This was significantly higher than in the 4.6% of patients who had a bleeding episode but did not develop an INR greater than 5.0.

In the first two months of treatment, bleeding occurred in 11.0% of patients who had at least one incidence of an INR greater than 5.0. Whereas the rate in patients who never recorded an INR greater than 5.0 was only 5%.

Professor Leon Poller, the Project Leader of the European Action on Anticoagulation said: "This study demonstrates through significant patient results that the "" listed in last year's UK NHS Improvement Document are correct. This is a really important finding for the hundreds of thousands of in the UK who suffer from AF and for the medical staff who treat them."

The results of the study are being made available to all NHS hospitals and practices and have been published in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Pathology.

Explore further: Clot-busting medicine safe for use in warfarin-treated patients following stroke

Related Stories

Clot-busting medicine safe for use in warfarin-treated patients following stroke

June 26, 2012
The clot-busting medicine, tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), is safe to use in acute stroke patients already on the home blood thinner warfarin, according to researchers from Duke Clinical Research Institute (DCRI). This ...

Repeat CT scan urged for head trauma patients on warfarin

May 31, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Minor head trauma patients taking warfarin should have a repeat computed tomography (CT) scan prior to discharge to detect delayed hemorrhage, particularly in those with an initial international normalized ...

ARISTOTLE trial finds new drug may revolutionize the treatment of atrial fibrillation

October 26, 2011
New research has the potential to revolutionize the treatment of atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition affecting a quarter of a million Canadians which is expected to strike even more in the coming years, as the Canadian ...

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.