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Minerva Medica 2002 February;93(1):13-26


language: English

The use of antithrombotic drugs in older people

Tufano A., Cerbone A. M., Di Minno G.


Older individuals (subjects aged >65 years) largely contribute to the percentage deaths due to myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke. The incidence of venous thromboembolism (VTE) is also higher >65 years old patients. However, the risk of bleeding complications in patients on antithrombotic drugs increases with age and with clinical conditions, as cognitive/psychiatric diseases, traumas, hypertension, poor compliance with medications, common in the elderly. Thus the risk-benefit ratio of antithrombotics should be carefully evaluated in older individuals. To prevent the risk and the recurrence of ischemic stroke and MI in the older patients with stable/ unstable angina, MI, TIA/stroke or peripheral arterial disease, antiplatelet drugs are of choice. Aspirin is the most widely used antiplatelet drug. Clopidogrel is safer and more effective than aspirin in this respect. The combination of heparin and aspirin is the treatment of choice for unstable angina and non-Q wave MI, also in the elderly. Low molecular weight heparins (LMWHs) proved to be as effective as standard heparin in this indication. In the absence of contraindications, thrombolysis for treatment of acute MI may be considered in the elderly. For the treatment of acute venous thromboembolism (VTE), intravenous standard heparin, subcutaneous standard heparin or LMWHs are effective. Because of the limited risk/benefit ratio, thrombolytic agents are not recommended for treating deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in the elderly. They should be limited to young patients and to patients with massive pulmonary embolism (PE). For chronic treatment of VTE, warfarin is the treatment of choice (INR 2.0-3.0), also in the elderly. Because of hypersensitivity to oral anticoagulants, lower dosages of warfarin are needed in the old patient. As to prophylaxis of VTE in surgery, in subjects at low-moderate risk, or in medical patients, low-dose heparin or low-dose LMWHs are effective. As to prophylaxis of VTE in surgery in subjects at high risk, adjusted-dose heparin or high-dose LMWHs are recommended. Finally, as to prevention of stroke in patients older than 75 with atrial fibrillation (AF), warfarin is of choice.

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