Patient Self-Monitoring of Oral Anticoagulant Therapy
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Coumarin derivatives are widely used oral anticoagulants for patients with chronic atrial fibrillation, venous thromboembolism, valvular heart disease, myocardial infarction or a mechanical prosthetic heart valve. Because of the narrow therapeutic window associated with coumarins and the potential for drug interactions, frequent monitoring of anticoagulation is required to maintain the International Normalized Ratio (INR) between 2.0 to 3.5 for most clinical indications. Monitoring of oral anticoagulant therapy is placing a considerable burden on healthcare providers because many patients require life-long treatment with coumarins, and because of an increasing number of elderly patients with conditions that are treated with coumarins. A novel approach that might, in part, address this healthcare need is patient self-monitoring of anticoagulation with a portable coagulometer. Several cohort studies and randomized controlled trials have found that anticoagulation self-monitoring is as good as, or better than, conventional monitoring in a specialized anticoagulation clinic or by a general practitioner. The advantages of anticoagulation self-monitoring include reduced patient inconvenience relating to anticoagulation clinic visits and laboratory monitoring of warfarin therapy, and fewer INR levels outside the therapeutic INR range if INR measurements are preformed more frequently with anticoagulation self-monitoring. Thus, anticoagulation self-monitoring has the potential to reduce the incidence of thromboembolic and bleeding episodes in patients who are receiving long term oral anticoagulant therapy. The potential drawbacks of anticoagulation self-monitoring include the costs of the portable coagulometer. Additionally, self-monitoring is limited to patients who have the cognitive and physical capabilities to perform the technique required for the portable coagulometer.
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