Aspirin may help reduce the risk of recurrent venous thromboembolism (VTE) following the cessation of anticoagulant therapy, reports a new study. VTE is a potentially life-threatening condition in which larger veins in the pelvis and leg become inflamed, and a clot forms as a consequence. These clots can break off and now called emboli travel up the venous system to the heart, and then out into the lung circulation, where they block pulmonary arteries. This can cause illness ranging from cough and shortness of breath, to sudden death. A person who has had one such episode is at high risk of further instances, and blood thinning with an anticoagulant is required for at least six months.
Researchers from the University of Perugia in Italy assessed about 400 patients who had just completed 6 to 12 months of oral anticoagulant (warfarin) treatment following an instance of VTE. These patients were then randomly assigned to receive treatment with either 100 mg of daily aspirin or a placebo for two years. The results, which were presented at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology, showed that there was a significantly lower rate of VTE recurrence in the aspirin treatment group than in the placebo group. Additionally, taking aspirin did not lead to any increased risk of major bleeding, which is a complication often associated with long-term anticoagulant therapy.
As ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross explains, Anticoagulants are among the more risky drugs that people commonly take so it s important to balance their benefit of lowering blood clot risk with the increased risk of bleeding. It s understandable, then, that people will want to end the anticoagulant therapy earlier, he says, But, as this study suggests, if you can cut the anticoagulants out and replace them with aspirin, while continuing to receive the benefits of lowered blood clot risk, that s even better since aspirin has a much lower risk of major bleeding.