A study led by a University of Kentucky researcher being published in the country's leading medical journal could one day change the standard treatment for preventing blood clots during procedures to open up blocked arteries feeding the heart.
Dr. Steven Steinhubl, co-chairman and senior author of a study appearing in the current issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, said the drug used in the study, enoxaparin, has the potential to become a standard treatment in stent and angioplasty procedures, but more research is necessary to come to a definitive conclusion. The current standard of care is to give patients unfractionated heparin.
Steinhubl, an interventional cardiologist and researcher at UK's Linda and Jack Gill Heart Institute, said that while elective stent and angioplasty procedures to clear blocked arteries are generally safe, a small percentage of patients will experience significant bleeding due to the procedure that can increase the cost and duration of the hospital stay and, in rare instances, even cause death.
In the study, researchers examined enoxaparin to determine if it is a safe and effective anti-clotting drug, carrying less risk for bleeding following the procedure than unfractionated heparin.
The study found that major bleeding was cut by more than half in patients receiving enoxaparin. It also showed that doctors were much more likely to achieve the targeted level of blood thinning for their patients with enoxaparin compared with unfractionated heparin.
"Bleeding following a stent placement or angioplasty is an event that is not only dangerous for patients, but also carries a financial burden for the health care industry as a whole," Steinhubl said. "Millions of these procedures are successfully performed at hospitals across the United States each year. It is important that we make what has become a relatively safe procedure even safer by finding a drug that will effectively prevent blood clots and not put patients at risk for unnecessary bleeding. This study, which was designed to test the safety of enoxaparin, is one of the first steps we as cardiologists are taking to reach that goal."
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