Antithrombotic Therapy in Patients With Mechanical and Biological Prosthetic Heart Valves
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1. Permanent therapy with oral anticoagulants offers the most consistent protection in patients with mechanical heart valves. 2. Antiplatelet agents alone do not consistently protect patients with mechanical prosthetic heart valves, including patients in sinus rhythm with St. Jude Medical valves in the aortic position. 3. Levels of oral anticoagulants that prolong the INR to 2.0 to 3.0 appear satisfactory for patients with St. Jude Medical bileaflet and Medtronic-Hall tilting disk mechanical valves in the aortic position, provided they are in sinus rhythm and the left atrium is not enlarged. Presumably, this is also true for the CarboMedics bileaflet valve, based on the observation of no clinically important difference in the rate of systemic embolism with this valve and the St. Jude Medical bileaflet valve. 4. Levels of oral anticoagulants that prolong the INR to 2.5 to 3.5 are satisfactory for tilting disk valves and bileaflet prosthetic valves in the mitral position. 5. Experience in patients with caged ball valves who had prothrombin time ratios reported in terms of the INR is sparse, because few such valves have been inserted in recent years. The number of surviving patients with caged ball valves continues to decrease. It has been suggested that the most advantageous level of the INR in patients with caged ball or caged disk valves should be as high as 4.0 to 4.9. However, others have shown a high rate of major hemorrhage with an INR that is even somewhat lower, 3.0-4.5. The problem is self-limited, however, because few such valves are being inserted. 6. In patients with mechanical heart valves, aspirin, in addition to oral anticoagulants, has been shown to diminish the frequency of thromboemboli. The risk of bleeding is somewhat increased if the INR is 2.0 to 3.0 or 2.5 to 3.5. However, if the INR is 3.0 to 4.5, the risk of bleeding becomes excessive with aspirin. There are no investigations in which aspirin 80 mg/d in combination with oral anticoagulants was evaluated. 7. Data are insufficient to recommend dipyridamole over low doses of aspirin in combination with warfarin. Whether dipyridamole plus aspirin is more effective than aspirin alone when used with warfarin is undetermined. 8. Patients with bioprosthetic valves in the mitral position as well as patients with bioprosthetic valves in the aortic position may be at risk for thromboemboli during the first 3 months after operation. 9. Among patients with bioprosthetic valves in the mitral position, oral anticoagulants at an INR of 2.0 to 2.3 were as effective as an INR of 2.5 to 4.0 and were associated with fewer bleeding complications during the first 3 months after operation.10. Aspirin may reduce the long-term frequency of thromboembolism in patients with bioprosthetic valves.
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