Antithrombotic therapy in patients with chronic heart failure: rationale, clinical evidence and practical implications

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Chronic heart failure (CHF) is traditionally associated with increased risk of thromboembolic complications. Key features of CHF pathophysiology, such as impairment of intracardiac hemodynamics, peripheral blood flow deceleration, neuroendocrine activation, chronic oxidative stress and proinflammatory changes, could explain the predisposition to thromboembolism. However, conclusive epidemiologic data on thromboembolic event incidence in CHF are lacking. Furthermore, the place of antithrombotic therapy in CHF management is still uncertain. Apart from established indications for warfarin (e.g. atrial fibrillation and previous embolic events), there is no robust evidence to support administration of vitamin K antagonists to other patients with CHF, particularly to patients in sinus rhythm. The role of aspirin in preventing thromboembolism in these patients is also controversial. Large randomized trial data on the effectiveness and risks of warfarin and aspirin use in CHF patients with sinus rhythm are forthcoming. This article provides a brief overview of the epidemiologic and pathobiological background of thromboembolism in CHF, and discusses the up-to-date clinical evidence on antithrombotic therapy in detail.

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