New method for safer dosing of anticoagulants

Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, is a very common heart rhythm disturbance that increases the risk of stroke and death. It is usually treated with warfarin, where the dose is calculated by measuring the coagulation of the blood. The dose is increased if coagulation is too quick, and decreased if it is too slow. Patients with unsatisfactory samples are tested more frequently, while satisfactory samples mean that the test interval can be extended.
Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have now devised a new method that improves the accuracy of risk assessment. In a study involving 20,000 patients in Sweden, a new measurement method was tested that assesses far more reliably who is at risk of serious complications and admission to hospital. The method takes into account how blood viscosity fluctuates and also takes account of the values’ extremes to establish far more reliably which patients are at risk of a stroke, haemorrhage or death. The new method improves the chances of understanding which patients are at risk of complications, and is therefore an indicator for stepping up checks and probably reducing the risks. It also helps in the decision to discontinue warfarin in favour of other drugs in at-risk patients.