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Bridging therapy and oral anticoagulation: current and future prospects

Spyropoulos, Alex C

doi: 10.1097/MOH.0b013e32833c077b
Hemostasis and thrombosis: Edited by George J. Broze Jr and Charles S. Abrams

Purpose of review Patients undergoing oral anticoagulation treatment with vitamin K antagonist (VKA) therapy are at a high risk of bleeding when undergoing an invasive surgery or procedure. Bridging therapy with parenteral heparin, usually at therapeutic doses, aims to protect these patients against thromboembolism during temporary periprocedural interruption of VKA therapy. Whether or not to interrupt VKA therapy and initiate bridging therapy is a difficult decision that is based upon both the patient's and the procedure's thromboembolic and bleeding risks.

Recent findings There are minor procedures that can safely be done without the need for VKA interruption. Patient groups that may benefit from bridging therapy during temporary VKA interruption for a procedure include those who are at moderate-to-high risk of thromboembolism. Procedural bleed risk should determine when to resume bridging and VKA therapies. Recent findings highlight that low-molecular-weight heparin, usually in the outpatient setting, is the preferred agent over intravenous unfractionated heparin for bridging therapy, which includes patients with prosthetic heart valve indications for VKA therapy.

Summary Large, recently initiated placebo-controlled trials in bridging therapy are discussed, as well as future alternatives to VKA therapy in oral anticoagulation during the periprocedural period.

McMaster University, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Correspondence to Alex C Spyropoulos, MD, FACP, FCCP, FRCP(C), Associate Professor, Department of Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton General Hospital Thrombosis Unit, 237 Barton Street East, Hamilton, ON L8L 2X2, Canada Tel: +1 905 527 1710; e-mail:

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.