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Urgent reversal of vitamin K antagonist therapy

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In the developed world, an increasing number of patients receive therapy with vitamin K antagonists (VKA). This group of patients poses an additional challenge in the perioperative management of emergency surgery and trauma. The present review offers a detailed description of some treatment options for reversal of VKA therapy. Optimal treatment of the anticoagulated patient requires a well-balanced intervention securing a reduced risk of haemorrhagic surgical complications as well as optimal anticoagulation post-operatively without exposing the patient to an increased risk of thromboembolic complications. The following factors must be considered in VKA-treated patients scheduled for emergency surgery: (1) the indication for VKA therapy, including the risk of thromboembolic events when the International normalized ratio (INR) is reduced, (2) type of surgery, including the risk of haemorrhagic complications and (3) the pharmacodynamic/-kinetic profile of the therapy used to revert the VKA therapy. Therapeutic options for acute reversal of VKA therapy include: vitamin K, fresh frozen plasma (FFP), prothrombin complex concentrate (PCC) and perhaps activated recombinant factor VII. PCC is a relatively new drug in some European countries and clinical experience is limited compared with the use of FFP. Reversal of VKA anticoagulation with PCC is faster and more efficient compared with FFP, but there are currently no randomized studies demonstrating an improved clinical outcome.
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Document Type: Review Article

Affiliations: 1: Anaesthesia and Intensive Care Medicine 2: Clinical Biochemistry, Aarhus University Hospital, Skejby, Denmark

Publication date: 2011-05-01

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