Issue: 2010 > February > review

Bleeding in patients using new anticoagulants or antiplatelet agents: risk factors and management

M.M. Levi, E. Eerenberg, , P.W. Kamphuisen


The most important adverse effect of antithrombotic
treatment is the occurrence of bleeding. In case of serious or even life-threatening bleeding in a patient who uses anticoagulant agents or when patient on
anticoagulants needs to undergo an urgent invasive
procedure, anticoagulant treatment can be reversed by various specific strategies. Heparin and heparin derivatives can be counteracted by protamine sulphate,
whereas the anticoagulant effect of vitamin K antagonists may be neutralised by administration of
vitamin K or prothrombin complex concentrates. The
antihaemostatic effect of aspirin and other antiplatelet
strategies can be corrected by the administration of
platelet concentrate and/or desmopressin, if needed.
Recently, a new generation of anticoagulants with a
greater specificity towards activated coagulation factors
has been introduced and most of these agents are currently being evaluated in clinical studies, showing
promising results. The new-generation anticoagulants
include specific inhibitors of factor IIa or factor Xa (including pentasaccharides) and antiplatelet agents
belonging to the class of thienopyridine derivatives. A
limitation of the new class of anti-IIa and anti-Xa agents
may be the lack of an appropriate strategy to reverse the effect if a bleeding event occurs, although in some cases the administration of recombinant factor VIIa may be an option.