The potential risk of severe hemorrhage requiring hospitalization was reportedly 1/500 in men undergoing TRUS biopsy without warfarin administration, with a theoretical fivefold increase in men administered warfarin as an anticoagulant (Ramachandran et al. 2005). When a patient is considered to be at a low or intermediate risk for thromboembolism, most clinicians advocate discontinuation of antithrombotic therapy prior to TRUS biopsy and recommend continuation only after any bleeding has stopped (Cochlin 2005). The risk of thrombotic events associated with stopping warfarin is reportedly approximately 1% (Wahl 1998; Yasaka et al. 2001). Several observational studies have suggested that simply interrupting warfarin therapy for <7 days is associated with a very low rate of thromboembolism and severe bleeding complications (Garcia et al. 2008; Wysokinski et al. 2008). A survey among urologists and radiologists found that 84% of urologists stopped warfarin 4 days before TRUS biopsy, and 95% of radiologists stopped it 5 days before TRUS biopsy (Connor and Wingate 1999). A PT-INR of less than 1.5 is accepted for most elective procedures (Kearon and Hirsh 1997).
When patients have a high risk of thromboembolism, either continuation of antithrombotic agents or discontinuation of antithrombotic agents with heparin bridging therapy is required. As a definitive recommendation regarding the management of antithrombotic agents before TRUS biopsy is yet to be established, the benefits and adverse effects of heparin bridging therapy are debatable. Clinicians have traditionally discontinued antithrombotic agents and started heparin bridging therapy, depending on the risk of thrombotic events (Douketis et al. 2008; El-Hakim and Moussa 2010). The guidelines for the management of antithrombotic agents for endoscopic procedures suggest heparin bridging therapy for higher-risk procedures (e.g., polypectomy) in high-risk patients (e.g., those with atrial fibrillation with mechanical valves, valvular heart disease, and/or a history of cerebrovascular accidents, and those who experience transient ischemic attacks) (Murasaki 2011). A recent prospective study suggested that heparin bridging therapy increased the risk of bleeding complications from interruption alone (0.8%) to bridging (13%) in colonoscopy and oral and ophthalmic surgeries (Garcia et al. 2008). However, there is little reliable evidence for the benefits and harm associated with heparin bridging therapy in TRUS biopsy. To our knowledge, this is the first report to describe the risk of heparin bridging therapy for TRUS biopsy in patients requiring temporary discontinuation of antithrombotic agents. Our data suggested that discontinuation of antithrombotic agents with heparin bridging therapy increased the incidence of complications after TRUS biopsy. Furthermore, there was an increase in bleeding-related complications and urinary tract infections. Although the majority of complication grades were low (1 or 2), the incidence rate of complications was significantly higher in heparin bridging patients than in control patients. Similarly to a previous study (Garcia et al. 2008), our results suggested the possibility that heparin bridging therapy may cause more harm than good. From a different perspective, this is reasonable because patients who are indicated for heparin bridging therapy have a number of severe comorbidities. In fact, our patients treated with heparin bridging therapy had a significantly higher prevalence of diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Therefore, it is possible that those patients who were recommended heparin bridging therapy have a high risk for complications, and careful management of such complications is required in these patients.
In addition, the patients with temporary discontinuation of antithrombotic agents should be compared to the bridging group to assess the safety of heparin bridging therapy. The rates of any complications and bleeding-related complications in those with discontinuation and the bridging group were 9.7 and 35% (P = 0.001), 3.7 and 27% (P = 0.001), respectively. This result implies that the heparin bridging itself, in spite of the past use of antithrombotic agents, affects the complication rate. Furthermore, the patient background of these two groups is compared to consider the influence of heparin bridging. The comorbidity rates of diabetes and hypertension in those with discontinuation and the bridging group were 15 and 27% (P = 0.160), and 49 and 46% (P = 0.839), respectively. This similarity of background also supports the significance of heparin bridging for complication rates.
We observed no thrombotic event in this cohort. Our results may be biased by the limitations of sample size and/or the ethnic differences. The risk of thrombotic disease is different between Japanese and Caucasians (Murasaki 2011). Therefore, we could not establish the benefits or adverse effects of heparin bridging therapy in this present study.
To balance the potential benefits and adverse effects, continuation of antithrombotic agents is another option for reducing thrombotic events. Several studies have suggested the safety of continuation of warfarin amid TRUS- biopsy. In the studies of Ihezue et al. (2005) and Chowdhury et al. (2012), no significant differences were observed in the severity of bleeding between the patients taking warfarin (36.7 and 27.9%, respectively) and the controls (60.2 and 37.0%, respectively). These results suggest that discontinuation of warfarin before TRUS biopsy is unnecessary. However, the limitations of these studies include the non-randomized design, potentially life-threatening hemorrhagic complications that may have been avoided only due to the sample size and limited information regarding the proper control of PT-INR. Another alternative is a switch of novel oral anticoagulant (NOAC). It may decrease the risk of bleeding and thromboembolism (Douketis et al. 2014). However, there is limited evidence for invasive procedures with interruption of NOAC administration. Further studies are needed to evaluate the benefits and adverse effects of discontinuation alone, continuation, or discontinuation with administration of heparin bridging therapy in TRUS biopsy.
To carefully assess the benefits and adverse effects, risk classification is necessary. One of the major risk classifications is the CHADS2 score (Gage et al. 2004). It is used to determine whether or not antithrombotic treatment is required. The CHADS2 score is simple and its applicability has been validated by many studies. Based on the CHADS2 score, this decision pertaining to the treatment modality should be discussed with the patient and the primary physician managing the antithrombotic agents. To assess the accuracy and reliability of CHADS2 scores in clinical practice, we selected 68 patients who were taking warfarin and compared the PT-INR and CHADS2 scores between patients with and without heparin bridging therapy. Our data showed that the target level of PT-INR was significantly higher in patients with heparin bridging therapy. However, no relationship was observed between the CHADS2 score and a recommendation for heparin bridging therapy. This finding suggests the difficulty in truly defining risk stratification and decision making, and highlights the urgent need for large-scale randomized clinical trials to evaluate the management of continuation of antithrombotic agents or bridging therapy in patients undergoing TRUS biopsy.
The present study has several limitations, including small sample size, its retrospective nature, and the indication of heparin bridging therapy. Among these, the retrospective design may result in remarkable biases in this study. For instance, propensity score matching was not applied because of the small sample size. On the other hand, because the judgement regarding antithrombotic therapy possibly causes fatal complications such as intracranial hemorrhage and pulmonary embolism, the prospective study needs to be designed very carefully in the future. Although our study suggested that heparin bridging therapy may increase the risk of bleeding complications, safety of this therapy remains inconclusive. Despite these limitations, this study is the first to report the safety of heparin bridging therapy for TRUS biopsy in patients requiring temporary discontinuation of antithrombotic agents (Additional file 1).