Perioperative complications in patients on low-molecular-weight heparin bridging therapy

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Patients taking warfarin are often given interim anticoagulation in the perioperative period. Institutional guidelines that use low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) ‘bridging’ while the international normalized ratio (INR) is sub-therapeutic are often based on the American College of Chest Physicians Anticoagulation Guidelines.


This study aims to identify if patients at a tertiary referral hospital were anticoagulated in line with these guidelines, and the incidence and nature of bleeding and thromboembolic complications.


A retrospective review of the Alfred Hospital General Surgical and ‘Hospital at Home’ databases was conducted, identifying patients who underwent elective general surgical procedures and received bridging anticoagulation with enoxaparin. Demographics, indication for anticoagulation, bleeding and thromboembolism rates were recorded. Thromboembolic risk was estimated.


The study identified 108 patients. Three-quarters of all patients were anticoagulated with LMWH doses in accordance with the guidelines. Thirty of the 108 patients suffered bleeding complications. This group was younger, weighed less, received higher doses of enoxaparin and were at higher predicted risk of thromboembolism than non-bleeding patients. Wound haematoma, rectal bleeding and intra-abdominal bleeding were the most frequent complications. The peak time of bleeding was 3.5 days after surgery. Twelve patients returned to theatre, 13 were readmitted and 3 received blood transfusion. One patient suffered pulmonary emboli on the first post-operative day.


LMWH bridging therapy when prescribed appropriately is associated with low rates of inpatient thromboembolism in elective general surgical patients within our institution, but an unexpectedly high rate of bleeding complications.

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