Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Your GI bleeding patient is on antiplatelet therapy. Should you transfuse platelets?

From a recent retrospective cohort study:

Background & Aims

Antiplatelet agents decrease cardiovascular events but increase gastrointestinal bleeding (GIB). Guidelines propose platelet transfusion for patients who take antiplatelet agents and have serious GIB. We investigated whether such patients are at decreased risk for rebleeding or increased risk for cardiovascular events after platelet transfusion.


We performed a retrospective cohort study of patients with GIB admitted to Yale-New Haven Hospital from 2008 to 2013 who were taking antiplatelet agents and had platelet counts higher than 100 × 109/L. Cases (patients who received platelet transfusion, n = 204) were matched with controls (no platelet transfusions, n = 204) for sex, age, and GIB location. The primary outcome was recurrent GIB. Multivariable regression analyses were performed to adjust for differences in baseline characteristics.


Cases and controls had similar proportions of GIB due to non-variceal upper GIB (117 of 204, 57% vs 115 of 204, 56%) and colonic GIB (80 of 204, 39% vs 81 of 204, 40%). Cases had more severe GIB than controls, which was based on lower blood pressure and hemoglobin levels and higher heart rates and the proportion admitted to intensive care. Univariate analyses showed that higher proportions of cases had major cardiovascular events (23% vs 13% for controls), died (7% vs 1% for controls), or had hospital stay longer than 4 days (47% vs 33% for controls). However, multivariable analyses showed a significant difference between cases and controls in only risk of death (odds ratio, 5.57; 95% confidence interval, 1.52–27.1). The adjusted odds ratio for recurrent bleeding was 1.47 (95% confidence interval, 0.73–3.05) for cases vs controls.


The use of platelet transfusions in patients with GIB who are taking antiplatelet agents without thrombocytopenia did not reduce rebleeding but was associated with higher mortality. At least some of the increase in mortality could be due to the residual bias of an observational study, but because of the lack of benefit, we do not support the use of platelet transfusions in patients with GIB who are taking antiplatelet agents.

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