Patient Education Blog

Is acupuncture safe for patients taking blood thinners?

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Beth Waldron, Clot Connect program director writes…

Background:  Blood thinners (anticoagulants  such warfarin, Xarelto, Pradaxa, Eliquis, enoxaparin) and anti-platelet drugs (aspirin, Plavix) increase bleeding risk.  Patients taking these drugs are typically advised to avoid activities which might cause increased bleeding, bruising or trauma.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles through the skin at strategic points along the body. These needles are very thin, much smaller than the hypodermic needles used for phlebotomy (blood draws) and injections.(Ref 1)   Because the needles used are so small, very little bleeding occurs with acupuncture. (2)

The data:

  • A 2014 published study on the safety of acupuncture for patients taking blood thinners found no reports of major bleeding.(3)  Minor ‘microbleeding’—defined as bleeding which stopped within 30 seconds—occurred in only slightly more patients taking an anticoagulant (4.8%) than patients not on an anticoagulant (3.0%).  Patients taking an anti-platelet medication had very little bleeding (0.9%).
  • There was also no significant difference in the amount of bruising which occurred from acupuncture between those taking an anticoagulant (2.0%) or an anti-platelet (1.6%) and those who took neither (1.3%).
  • An earlier study of acupuncture among hospitalized patients taking warfarin, also found very little bleeding and that a higher INR value did not predict a higher risk of  bleeding–bleeding incidence after acupuncture were no different among patients with a low INR (14.6%) and those with a high INR (14.3%). (4)

Summary:   Acupuncture appears to be safe for the patient on a blood thinner.  However as a precaution, inform your acupuncture provider in advance of the procedure that you are on a blood thinner so they can be alert and prepared.

 

REFERENCES

1. UpToDate   http://www.uptodate.com/contents/acupuncture

2. “A Guide to Integrative Oncology”  University of Washington http://depts.washington.edu/integonc/patients/spc/acupuncture.shtml

3. Kim et al. The safety of acupuncture treatments for patients taking warfarin or antiplatelet medications: A retrospective chart review study European Journal of Integrative Medicine, May 17, 2014. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876382014000626

4. Miller et al. Acupuncture treatment for hospitalized patients on anticoagulant therapy—a safety study  BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012 (Suppl 1) p 107

Commercial Airline Pilots and DVT and PE

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Stephan Moll, MD writes… Interesting study: Are commercial airline pilots at increased risk of DVT and PE,  referred to collectively as venous thromboembolism (VTE) [ref 1]?  One might think so, as air travel is an established, although only weak, risk factor for VTE [ref 2,3].  This new study found, however, that the risk of VTE is NOT increased in airline pilots.

Study design:  This study asked commercial airline pilots in Holland per questionnaire whether they had had a VTE, their risk factors for VTE, and the number of flight hours per year.  The rate of VTE was compared to the general Dutch population and to a population of frequently flying employees of multinational organizations.

Results:  76 % of the pilots who had been sent the questionnaire responded, so that 2,630 pilots were included in the study.  Six VTE were reported, yielding an incidence rate of 0.3/1000 patient-years. This incidence rate was slightly lower than in the general population and lower than in a population of frequently flying employees of international organizations.  The incidence rate did not increase with number of flight hours per year.

Conclusion:  This study found that the risk of VTE is not increased amongst airline pilots.

Comment:  While this finding at first seems surprising, as airline travel is a known risk factor for VTE, the authors list several reasons why such a low rate of VTE in their airline pilots may have been found: (a) pilots are typically quite healthy (and more healthy than the general population), (b) pilots are probably less immobilized and have less cramped seating conditions than passengers, (c) pilots who were sent the questionnaire may have been reluctant to confirm that they had had a VTE for fear of professional consequences.  Nevertheless, it seems like a fair conclusion that the risk of VTE in commercial pilots is low.

References

  1. Kuipers S et al. The incidence of venous thromboembolism in commercial airline pilots: a cohort study of 2630 pilots. J Thromb Haemost 2014, Jun 9.
  2. Cannegieter SC et al. Travel-related venous thrombosis: results from a large population-based case control study (MEGA study). PLoS Med. 2006;3:e307.
  3. Chandra D et al. Meta-analysis: travel and risk for venous thromboembolism. Ann Intern Med 2009;151:180-90.

Major Bleeding on Blood Thinners: Practical Guideline

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Stephan Moll, MD writes…  Major bleeds on blood thinners (such as Coumadin, Jantoven, Eliquis, Pradaxa, Xarelto) and anti-platelet drugs (like aspirin, Plavix, Brilinta, Effient, etc.) occur every so often.  Quick action in Emergency Departments is needed in case of such bleeds.  Our medical center (University of North Carolina Hospitals,  Chapel Hill) has put together an “Emergent Anticoagulation Reversal Guideline” for our local use as a practical, clinical how-to document (PDF here).  Since not every medical institution has pharmacists and MDs with clotting expertise available to develop its own guideline, we are making this document available through Clot Connect and invite colleagues and hospitals  to take the document if they like, modify it, and apply it to their institution.

 

Disclosures:  I have been a consultant for CSL Behring and Janssen.

Last updated: June 9th, 2014

New study examines psychological impact of pulmonary embolism

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Beth Waldron, Clot Connect Program Director writes….

The physical consequences of thromboembolism (VTE) [=deep vein thrombosis DVT and pulmonary embolism PE] have been extensively reported in the medical literature.  Less documented has been the emotional impact of VTE on patients. This lack of formal study is notable given the extensive research on the psychological impact of other sudden, potentially life-threatening cardiovascular events (heart attack, stroke) which has provided clear evidence that such illnesses can result in significant psychological morbidity and contribute to adverse health outcomes.   Read the rest of this entry »

New Publication: Increased Bleeding Risk When Taking Blood Thinners Together with Aspirin and Certain Pain Medications (NSAIDs)

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Bruce L Davidson, MD, writes… Our study published in JAMA Internal Medicine [reference below] used patient information (with no identifying information, so confidentiality was preserved) from the two EINSTEIN clinical studies of acute DVT and acute PE treatment to ask the questions, “What effect does taking aspirin, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) other than aspirin, have on bleeding risk if the patient is also taking a blood thinner (anticoagulant)?” Read the rest of this entry »

FDA-Approval for Pradaxa (dabigatran) for DVT and PE

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Stephan Moll, MD writes…  Today the FDA approved Pradaxa (dabigatran) for the treatment of DVT and PE.  Thus, two of the new oral blood thinners are now FDA-approved for the treatment of DVT and PE:  Xarelto (rivaroxaban) and Pradaxa (dabigatran).  Due to the design of the clinical trials that lead to the FDA approval, Pradaxa should NOT be given immediately when DVT or PE are diagnosed, but rather after 5-10 days of treatment with an injectable blood thinner (into the skin or a vein; such as Lovenox = enoxaparin; Fragmin = dalteparin; Innohep = tinzaparin; or heparin).  A Clot Connect summary of the FDA approval status of the four big new oral blood thinners for the various indications is in this table.  Pradaxa’s full medication package insert is here.  Today’s press release from Boehringer-Ingelheim about the FA approval is here.

 

Disclosures:  I have been a consultant for Boehringer-Ingelheim,  Daiichi, and Janssen.

Last updated:  April 7th, 2014

Blood Clots After Delivery – How Long is a Woman at Risk?

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Stephan Moll, MD writes… Women are at increased risk for blood clots (DVT, PE, stroke and heart attacks) during pregnancy and in the weeks after delivery.  If the risk is high enough, then preventive blood thinners (anticoagulants) are recommended, such as in a woman with a history of a previous blood clot. Guidelines exist as to which woman should be considered for blood thinners (ACOG 2012 guideline; ref 1).

The period after delivery is a particularly high-risk period for forming blood clots. It has typically been defined as being the 6 weeks after giving birth.  Therefore, if blood thinners are chosen after delivery, they are classically given for 6 weeks.  A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (ref 2) examined whether the risk for blood clots is increased only for 6 weeks postpartum or whether the risk persists beyond the first 6 weeks. Read the rest of this entry »

Catheter-Associated Blood Clots of Arm and Neck in Patients With Cancer

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Stephan Moll, MD writes… Patients with cancer may have catheters in veins in their upper chest, neck or arm (central venous catheter,  port), to enable chemotherapy, fluids or blood products to be given. These catheters increase a patient’s risk for developing an arm or neck clot (DVT) leading to arm or neck swelling, pain, and may be warmth and reddish discoloration. Typically, blood thinners are used in this situation to prevent the clot from getting bigger or breaking off and traveling to the lung to cause a lung clot (pulmonary embolism; PE). Limited data exist how to best manage these catheter-associated DVTs.

This week (Feb 18th, 2014) a guidance document on the prevention and management of catheter-associated upper extremity and neck  DVT was published by one of the respected medical societies (International Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis; ISTH) [ref 1].

A summary of the conclusions and treatment recommendations for health care professionals has been published on Clot Connect here.

 

Reference

Zwicker JI et al. Catheter-associated deep vein thrombosis of the upper extremity in cancer patients: guidance from the SSC of the ISTH. Feb 18th, 2014 (pre-published on the web) – link to abstract here.

 

Disclosures:  I have no relevant financial disclosures.

Last updated:  Feb 20th, 2014

Pregnancy, Breast-Feeding: Safety of the Various Blood Thinners

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Stephan Moll, MD writes…

The injectable low molecular weight heparins (LMWH; e.g. enoxaparin = Lovenox; dalteparin = Fragmin; tinzaparin = Innohep) are the preferred blood thinners in the pregnant patient. Warfarin is to be avoided as it can cause malformations of the fetus and can lead to bleeding in the unborn.

Regarding breastfeeding:  the low molecular weight heparins (listed above) and warfarin are safe in the woman who is beastfeeding.

Rivaroxaban (Xarelto), dabigatran (Pradaxa) and apixaban (Eliquis) should not be used during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.

A detailed summary about the safety of each blood thinner during pregnancy and while breast-feeding, based on the ACCP 2012 guidelines [ref], can be found here.

Click image above for a detailed summary about the safety of each blood thinner during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Reference

Bates SM, Greer IA, Middeldorp S et al. VTE, Thrombophilia, Antithrombotic Therapy, and Pregnancy. Antithrombotic Therapy and Prevention of Thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. CHEST 2012; 141(2)(Suppl):e691S–e736S.

 

Disclosure:  I have consulted for Janssen and Boehringer-Ingelheim. 

Last updated: Jan 23rd, 2014

A 4th new blood thinner seeks FDA approval

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Stephan Moll, MD writes… 2014 promises to be quite a year regarding the new oral anticoagulants (‘blood thinners’) . Today the company Daiichi applied for FDA approval for their drug edoxaban (Savaysa®) for 2 indications: (a)  DVT and PE (venous thromboembolism; VTE) treatment and the prevention of recurrence  and (b) non-valvular atrial fibrillation and the prevention of systemic arterial thromboembolism. This application is based on the 2 large phase 3 edoxaban trials, one in VTE, one in A. fib, both published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2013 [ref 1,2].

Here is a summary of the FDA approval status and application status of the 4 big new oral anticoagulants. Also today, the brand name of edoxaban was announced: Savaysa (Daiichi press release here).

 

References

  1. The Hokusai-VTE Investigators. Edoxaban versus warfarin for the treatment of symptomatic venous thrmomboembolism. N Engl J Med 2013;369:1406-1415 (Oct 10, 2013).
  2. Giugliano RP et al. Edoxaban versus warfarin in patients with atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med 2013;369(22):2093-104(Nov 28, 2013).

 

Disclosure: I have consulted for Janssen, Daiichi, and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Last updated: Jan 8th, 2013