Antiplatelet Agents in the Perioperative Period

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To determine the use of the 3 major classes of antiplatelet drugs (aspirin, thienopyridines, and glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors), their management in the perioperative period, and the risks associated with premature withdrawal.

Data Sources

We reviewed the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases using the terms antiplatelet agents in the perioperative period, antiplatelet agents and management of bleeding, drug-eluting stents and stent thrombosis, substitutes for antiplatelet agents, and premature withdrawal of antiplatelet agents.

Study Selection

Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials; prospective observational studies; review articles; clinical registry data; and guidelines of professional bodies pertaining to antiplatelet agents were included.

Data Extraction and Synthesis

Two researchers independently read the selected abstracts and selected the studies that matched the inclusion criteria. Any discordance between the 2 researchers was resolved by discussion so that 99 articles were finally included.


Aspirin use should not be stopped in the perioperative period unless the risk of bleeding exceeds the thrombotic risk from withholding the drug. With the exception of recent drug-eluting stent implantation, clopidogrel bisulfate use should be stopped at least 5 days prior to most elective surgery. Use of glycoprotein IIb/IIIa inhibitors must be discontinued preoperatively for more than 12 hours to allow normal hemostasis. Premature withdrawal of antiplatelet agents is associated with a 10% risk of all vascular events. Following drug-eluting stent implantation, withdrawal is associated with stent thrombosis and potentially fatal consequences. No definitive guidelines exist to manage patients who are actively bleeding while taking these drugs.

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