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Oral Anticoagulant Prophylaxis and Epidural Catheter Removal
  1. Christopher L. Wu, M.D. and
  2. Frederick M. Perkins, M.D.
  1. University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, New York
  1. Reprint requests: Christopher L. Wu, M.D., Department of Anesthesiology, Box 604, University of Rochester Medical Center, 601 Elmwood Avenue, Rochester, NY 14642.


Background and Objectives The use of regional anesthesia in patients receiving anticoagulants is controversial. The purpose of this review is to document the incidence of neurologic complications with insertion and removal of an epidural catheter in patients receiving oral anticoagulants and antiplatelet medication.

Methods A retrospective review was made of the charts of 459 patients who underwent hip pinning or hip or knee replacement under regional anesthesia and received postoperative epidural analgesia and warfarin thromboembolism prophylaxis. The number of patients receiving preoperative antiplatelet therapy and warfarin, as well as baseline coagulation parameters, was documented. For patients who had postoperative epidural analgesia, the prothrombin time on the day of epidural catheter removal was obtained. Neurologic complications during the hospital stay were noted.

Results Spinal anesthesia was administered to 47 patients and epidural anesthesia and postoperative analgesia to 4 12. Before surgery, antiplatelet therapy was given to 270 and warfarin to 180 patients, with some patients receiving both. The mean ± SD preoperative prothrombin and partial thromboplastin times were 10.8 ± 1.2 seconds (normal, 9.6-11.1 seconds) and 27.5 ± 3.5 seconds (normal, 24.6-33.2 seconds), respectively. Blood on needle or catheter insertion was noted in 21 patients, all of whom were taking antiplatelet medication and/or warfarin. Epidural catheters remained postoperatively for a mean or 43.6 ± 12.5 hours (range 5-118 hours). The mean prothrombin time on the day of epidural catheter removal was 14.1 ± 3.2 seconds. Four postoperative peripheral neuropathies were detected. There was no clinical evidence of spinal hematoma in any patient.

Conclusions Epidural catheter placement and removal in patients laking oral anticoagulants appears to be safe. Careful monitoring of the patient for evidence of spinal hematoma after epidural catheter removal is recommended.

  • epidural anesthesia spinal anesthesia
  • hematoma
  • warfarin
  • antiplatelet medication
  • catheter removal

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