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Year of Taking Risky Blood Thinners May Be Unnecessary After Stent Surgery
Date:9/20/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 20 (HealthDay News) -- A full year of aggressive anti-clotting therapy -- which can lead to heavy bleeding -- may not be needed after surgery to implant a drug-coated cardiac stent, two new studies suggest.

Standard treatment for patients receiving so-called drug-eluting cardiac stents, which prop open clogged arteries after angioplasty, typically entails 12 months of double anti-platelet therapy consisting of aspirin and prescription blood thinners. Korean and Spanish research indicates, however, that patients who discontinue such risky therapy after several months suffer no more ill effects than those treated for a year.

"The interesting thing is, we went through a period of time so panicked about anti-platelet therapy interruptions and the effect they might have," said Dr. Kirk Garratt, director of clinical research at Lenox Hill Heart and Vascular Institute of New York City, who was not involved in the studies. "But over the last few years, a series of reports and clinical trials say the same thing -- that we probably don't need to be as worked up about it as we used to be."

The studies are scheduled for publication Sept. 21 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Cardiac stents -- metal mesh tubes that prevent heart arteries from re-closing -- are implanted in more than 500,000 Americans each year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some stents are coated with slowly released medication to prevent the growth of scar tissue in the artery lining.

Prescription blood thinners used in double anti-platelet therapy, such as clopidogrel (Plavix) and warfarin (Coumadin), are tricky to dose properly and can lead to life-threatening bleeding complications.

The Korean study split more than 2,100 patients, all of whom underwent stent surgery after angina (chest pain) or a heart attack, into groups
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