When can I resume anticoagulation in my patient with atrial fibrillation and hemorrhagic stroke?

Optimal timing of resumption of therapeutic anticoagulation (AC) in patients with hemorrhagic stroke or intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) is unclear because of lack of randomized controlled trials, but existing evidence suggests that 4-8 weeks may be reasonable in our patient (1). 

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association 2015 guidelines recommend avoiding AC for at least 4 weeks in patients without mechanical heart valves (class IIB-very weak), while 1 study reported that prediction models of ICH in atrial fibrillation at high risk of thromboembolic event suggest that resumption of AC at 7-8 weeks may be the “sweet spot” when weighing safety against efficacy of AC in this patient population (1-3).

Two meta-analyses (1 involving patients with non-lobar ICH, another ICH in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation) found that resumption of AC ranging from 10 to 44 days following ICH may be associated with decrease rates of thromboembolic events without significant change in the rate of repeat ICH (4,5).

There are many limitations to the published literature including their retrospective nature, unreported location and size of ICH in many studies, and use of warfarin (not DOACs) as an AC agent (1).

Clearly we need randomized controlled trials to answer this important question. In the meantime, a heavy dose of clinical judgement on a case-by-case basis seems appropriate.

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that lobar ICH has high incidence of cerebral amyloid angiopathy and has been associated with higher bleeding rates than has deep ICH (i.e., involving the thalami, basal ganglia, cerebellum, or brainstem) usually due to hypertensive vessel disease (1)? 

Liked this post? Download the app and sign up under MENU to catch future pearls straight into your inbox, all for free!


1. Gibson D et al. When is it safe to resume anticoagulation in my patient with hemorrhagic stroke. The Hospitalist, February 5, 2019. https://www.the-hospitalist.org/hospitalist/article/193924/neurology/when-it-safe-resume-anticoagulation-my-patient-hemorrhagic/page/0/1
2. Hemphill JC et al. Guidelines for the management of spontaneous intracerebral hemorrhage. Stroke. 2015 Jul;46:2032-60. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/STR.0000000000000069
3. Pennlert J et al. Optimal timing of anticoagulant treatment after intracerebral hemorrhage in patients with atrial fibrillation. Stroke. 2017 Feb;48:314-20 https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/STROKEAHA.116.014643
4. Murthy SB et al. Restarting anticoagulation therapy after intracranial hemorrhage: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Stroke. 2017 Jun;48:1594-600. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/strokeaha.116.016327
5. Biffi A et al. Oral anticoagulation and functional outcome after intracerebral hemorrhage. Ann Neurol. 2017 Nov;82:755-65 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5730065/

When can I resume anticoagulation in my patient with atrial fibrillation and hemorrhagic stroke?

My elderly patient on anticoagulation for non-valvular atrial fibrillation was admitted for evaluation of a fall. Should I discontinue her anticoagulation long term because of potential for intracranial hemorrhage from future falls?

Although there may always be hesitation in resuming anticoagulation (AC) in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) and recent fall(s), the weight of the evidence suggests that most patients are still more likely to benefit from AC than be adversely impacted by intracranial hemorrhage.

An often-quoted systematic review article on the risks and benefits of anti-thrombotic (AC or aspirin) therapy in patients with NVAF at risk estimated that persons taking warfarin must fall 295 times in 1 year for warfarin to not be the optimal therapy for reducing the risk of stroke (1). The authors concluded that “a history of and/or the presence of risk factors for falls should not be considered important factors in the decision whether to offer antithrombotic (especially warfarin) therapy to elderly patients with atrial fibrillation”.

In another study involving older adults with NVAF, although a history of falls or documented high risk of falling was associated with a risk of intracranial hemorrhage, this risk did not differ among patients treated with warfarin, aspirin or no antithrombotic therapy (2).

Ultimately, the decision to prescribe AC in patients with NVAF at risk for falls should be made based on shared decision making with patients and caregivers. However, in the absence of absolute contraindications for AC in these patients (eg, intracranial hemorrhage or neurosurgical procedure with high risk for bleeding within the past 30 days, an intracranial neoplasm or vascular abnormality with high risk of bleeding, recurrent life-threatening gastrointestinal or other bleeding events, and severe bleeding disorders), perceived or actual risk of falls by itself should not automatically exempt a patient from receiving AC in NVAF (3).


Although much of the data on the relative risk of bleeding against prevention of strokes has been derived from studies involving warfarin, it is reassuring that the risk of intracranial bleed has been lower than that of warfarin for several newer non-vitamin K antagonist direct oral anticoagulants (NOACs or DOACs),  including dabigatran, rivaroxaban, edoxaban and apixaban (4). 


If you liked this post, sign up under MENU and catch future pearls straight into your mailbox!



1. Man-Son-Hing M, Nichol G, Lau A, et al. Choosing antithrombotic therapy for elderly patiets with atrial fibrillation who are at risk for falls. Arch Intern Med 1999;159:677-685.
2. Gage BF, Birman-Deych E, Kerzner R, et al. Incidence of intracranial hemorrhage in patients with atrial fibrillation who are prone to fall. Am J Med 2005;118:612-617.
3. Hagerty T, Rich MW. Fall risk and anticoagulation for atrial fibrillation in the elderly: a delicate balance. Clev Clin J 2017;84:35-40.

4. Lopez RD, Guimaraes PO, Kolls BJ, et al. Intracranial hemorrhage in patietns with atrial fibrillation receiving anticoagulation therapy. Blood 2017;129:2980-87. 

My elderly patient on anticoagulation for non-valvular atrial fibrillation was admitted for evaluation of a fall. Should I discontinue her anticoagulation long term because of potential for intracranial hemorrhage from future falls?

Despite taking higher doses of warfarin, my patient’s INR won’t budge. What am I missing?

Poor compliance is probably the most common and least “exciting” explanation for low INRs despite seemingly adequate or high warfarin doses.  Otherwise, consider the following: 

Increased vitamin K intake: Since warfarin acts by inhibiting vitamin K recycling by VKORC1 (Vitamin K epOxide Reductase Complex), find out if your patient takes multivitamins or loves foods or products rich in vitamin K, ranging from leafy green vegetables to nutritional supplements( eg, Ensure) and even chewing tobacco!1 

Drug interactions: Warfarin is notorious for interacting with many drugs, although its effect is more often enhanced than counteracted. Run the patient’s med list and look for “counteractors” of warfarin,  including carbamazepine, phenobarbital, phenytoin, rifampin, and dexamethasone.2 

Hypothyroidism: Thyroid hormone seems to be necessary for efficient clearance of the vitamin K-dependent clotting factors (II, VII, IX, and X). Thus, larger doses of warfarin may be needed when patients are hypothyroid.3 

Hyperlipidemia and obesity: High lipid levels may allow for high vitamin K levels (since it’s lipid-soluble and carried in VLDL), especially at the start of therapy.4,5 

What if the INR is falsely low? This is usually not the problem although one major trial took a lot of heat for using a point of care INR device that gave low readings in anemic patients.6  When in doubt, check a chromogenic factor Xa test to confirm; 20-30% activity correlates with a true INR of 2-3.7

If none of these explanations fit the bill, consider genetic testing for warfarin resistance.8,9

Bonus Pearl: Did you know that use of warfarin (introduced in 1948 as a rodenticide) has already led to some selective pressure for VKORC1 mutations in exposed rat populations.10


  1. Kuykendall JR, et al. Possible warfarin failure due to interaction with smokeless tobacco. Ann Pharmacother. 2004 Apr;38(4):595-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14766993
  2. Zhou SF, et al. Substrates, inducers, inhibitors and structure-activity relationships of human Cytochrome P450 2C9 and implications in drug development. Curr Med Chem. 2009;16(27):3480-675. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19515014
  3. Bucerius J, et al. Impact of short-term hypothyroidism on systemic anticoagulation in patients with thyroid cancer and coumarin therapy. Thyroid. 2006 Apr;16(4):369-74. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16646683
  4. Robinson A, et al. Lipids and warfarin requirements. Thromb Haemost. 1990;63:148–149. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16646683
  5. Wallace JL, et al. Comparison of initial warfarin response in obese patients versus non-obese patients. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2013 Jul;36(1):96-101. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23015280
  6. Cohen D. Rivaroxaban: can we trust the evidence? BMJ 2016;352:i575. https://www.bmj.com/content/352/bmj.i575/rapid-responses
  7. Sanfelippo MJ, et al. Use of Chromogenic Assay of Factor X to Accept or Reject INR Results in Warfarin Treated Patients. Clin Med Res. 2009 Sep; 7(3): 103–105. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2757431/
  8. Rost S, et al. Mutations in VKORC1 cause warfarin resistance and multiple coagulation factor deficiency type 2. Nature. 2004;427:537–41. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14765194
  9. Schwarz UI, et al. Genetic determinants of response to warfarin during initial anticoagulation. N Engl J Med. 2008 Mar 6;358(10):999-1008. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18322281
  10. Rost S, et al. Novel mutations in the VKORC1 gene of wild rats and mice–a response to 50 years of selection pressure by warfarin? BMC Genet. 2009 Feb 6;10:4. https://bmcgenet.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2156-10-4

Contributed by Nicholas B Bodnar, Harvard Medical School student, Boston, MA.

If you liked his post, sign up under MENU and get future pearls straight into your mailbox!

Despite taking higher doses of warfarin, my patient’s INR won’t budge. What am I missing?

Should my patient with non-valvular atrial fibrillation on hemodialysis be anticoagulated?

Whether patients with end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) and non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) benefit from anticoagulation is a matter of controversy. 1,3 Although there may be some suggestion of benefit of warfarin for stroke prevention in this patient population, 2 there is also a higher concern for bleeding. 4-6 An increased risk of stroke among patients with ESKD and AF on warfarin has also been reported. 7

A 2018 Kidney Disease:Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) Controversies Conference concluded that there is “insufficient high-quality evidence” to recommend anticoagulation for prevention of stroke in patients with ESKD and atrial fibrillation. 8

However, the 2014 American College of Cardiology (ACC)/American Heart Association (AHA)/ Heart Rhythm (HRS) guideline states that it is reasonable to consider warfarin therapy in patients with ESKD and non-valvular AF with CHA2DS2 -VASc score of 2 or greater (Class IIa recommendation, level of evidence B).8 Of interest, the FDA recently approved the use of a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC), apixaban, in ESKD potentially providing an alternative to the use of warfarin when anticoagulation is considered.10

Perhaps the decision to anticoagulate patients with ESKD for atrial fibrillation is best made on a case-by-case basis taking into account a variety of factors, including the risk of thromboembolic event, the risk of bleeding complications as well as patient preference.


1. Genovesi S, Vincenti A, Rossi E, et al. Atrial fibrillation and morbidity and mortality in a cohort of long-term hemodialysis patients. Am J Kidney Dis 2008;51:255-62. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18215703

2. Olesen JB, Lip GY, Kamper AL, et al. Stroke and bleeding in atrial fibrillation with chronic kidney disease. N Engl J Med 2012;367:625-35. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22894575

3. Shah M, Avgil TM, Jackevicius CA, et al. Warfarin use and the risk for stroke and bleeding in patients with atrial fibrillation undergoing dialysis. Circulation2014;129:1196-203. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24452752

4. Elliott MJ, Zimmerman D, Holden RM. Warfarin anticoagulation in hemodialysis patients: a systematic review of bleeding rates. Am J Kidney Dis 2007;50:433-40. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17720522

5. Holden RM, Harman GJ, Wang M, Holland D, Day AG. Major bleeding in hemodialysis patients. Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2008;3:105-10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18003768

6. Wizemann V, Tong L, Satayathum S, et al. Atrial fibrillation in hemodialysis patients: clinical features and associations with anticoagulant therapy. Kidney Int 2010;77:1098-106. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20054291

7. Chan KE, Lazarus JM, Thadhani R, Hakim RM. Warfarin use associates with increased risk for stroke in hemodialysis patients with atrial fibrillation. J Am Soc Nephrol2009;20:2223-33. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2754104/

8. Turakhia MP, Blankestijn PJ, Carrero J, et al. Chronic kidney disease and arrythias: conclusions from a Kidney Disease:Improving Global Outcomes (KDIGO) Controversies Conference. Eur Heart J, ehy060. Published 07 March 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29522134

9. January CT, Wann LS, Alpert JS, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation. Circulation 2014;130:2071-104. http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/130/23/2071 

10. Moll S. Use of direct oral anticoagulants in patients on hemodialysis. Diffusion, October 11, 2017. http://www.hematology.org/Thehematologist/Diffusion/7794.aspx 

Contributed by Brad Lander, MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Should my patient with non-valvular atrial fibrillation on hemodialysis be anticoagulated?

My elderly patient on chronic warfarin with recent hospitalization for soft tissue infection is now readmitted with gastrointestinal bleed and a newly-discovered supra-therapeutic INR? Why did her INR jump?

Assuming no recent changes in the dose of warfarin, one potential culprit may be her recent antibiotic exposure. Of the long list of antibiotics associated with elevated INR, quinolones (e.g. ciprofloxacin, levofloxacin), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, macrolides (e.g. azithromycin), and azole antifungals (e.g. fluconazole) are generally thought to carry the highest risk of warfarin toxicity, while amoxacillin and cephalexin may be associated with a more modest risk. 1-3

Other drugs such as amiodarone (Did she have atrial fibrillation during her recent hospitalization?), acetaminophen (Has she been receiving at least 2 g/day for several consecutive days?), and increasing dose of levothyroxine (Was she thought to be hypothyroid recently?) should also be considered.3,4

Also remember to ask about herbal supplements (eg, boldo-fenugreek, dong quai, danshen) that may potentiate the effect of warfarin. 3 Of course, poor nutrition in the setting of recent illness might have also played a role.5

As far as the mechanisms for drug interaction with warfarin, some drugs act as cytochrome p450 inhibitors (thus reducing the metabolism of warfarin), while others influence the pharmacodynamics of warfarin by inhibiting the synthesis or increasing the clearance of vitamin K-2 dependent coagulation factors.3

Antibiotics may increase the risk of major bleeding through disruption of intestinal flora that synthesize vitamin K-2 with or without interference with the metabolism of warfarin through cytochrome p450 isozymes inhibition.

Check out a related pearl on P4P: https://pearls4peers.com/2015/06/25/is-there-anyway-to-predict-a-significant-rise-in-inr-from-antibiotic-use-in-patients-who-are-also-on-warfarin  



  1. Baillargeon J, Holmes HM, Lin Y, et al. Concurrent use of warfarin and antibiotics and the risk of bleeding in older adults. Am J Med. 2012 February ; 125(2): 183–189. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22269622
  2. Juurlink DN. Drug interactions with warfarin: what every physician should know. CMAJ, 2007;177: 369-371. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1942100/pdf/20070814s00018p369.pdf
  3. Ageno W, Gallus AS, Wittkowsky A, et al. Oral anticoagulant therapy: Antithrombotic therapy and prevention of thrombosis, 9th ed: American College of Chest Physicians Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines. Chest. 2012;141(2 Suppl):e44S-e88S. doi:10.1378/chest.11-2292.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22315269
  4. Hughes GJ, Patel PN, Saxena N. Effect of acetaminophen on international normalized ratio in patients receiving warfarin therapy. Pharmacotherapy 2011;31:591-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21923443
  5. Kumar S, Gupta D, Rau SS. Supratherapeutic international normalized ratio: an indicator of chronic malnutrition due to severely debilitating gastrointestinal disease. Clin Pract. 2011;1:e21. doi:10.4081/cp.2011.e21. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3981245


Contributed by Rachel Weitzman, Medical Student, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA.

My elderly patient on chronic warfarin with recent hospitalization for soft tissue infection is now readmitted with gastrointestinal bleed and a newly-discovered supra-therapeutic INR? Why did her INR jump?

Should prothrombin complex concentrates be used to reverse anticoagulation from direct factor Xa inhibitors?

Due to insufficient and occasionally conflicting evidence, the use of prothrombin complex concentrates (PCCs) for reversal of direct factor Xa inhibitors (eg, rivaroxaban, apixaban, and edoxaban) is NOT recommended.1 This is because PCCs have no effect on the anti-Xa assay, the most accurate measure of anticoagulation for direct factor Xa inhibitors.

Although several in vitro and in vivo studies initially suggested that PCCs may be effective for this purpose, anti-Xa activity has not been measured in these studies2-4; PT and aPTT are not reflective of the anticoagulation activity of direct factor Xa inhibitors.

In fact, a 2014 study found no difference in the anti-Xa activity between 11 patients on rivaroxaban who were given a 4-factor PCC (Beriplex®, the European brand name for Kcentra®) and 12 patients on rivaroxaban receiving saline.5 Though small, this is the best published in vivo data to date examining the effect of 4-factor PCC on the anti-Xa levels of patients on direct factor Xa inhibitors.

A theoretical concern with the use of PCCs is increased risk of thrombosis when the therapeutic effect of these direct oral anticoagulant (DOACs) is gone (half-life ~12 h) while the thrombogenic effects of PCCs persist (eg, in critically ill, postoperative, or sedentary patients).

The good news is that more specific reversal agents are in the pipeline. 1 Stay tuned! 



  1. Dzik WH. “Reversal of oral factor Xa inhibitors by prothrombin complex concentrates: a re-appraisal.” J Thromb Haemost 2015;13 (Suppl 1):S187-94. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26149022
  2. Perzborn E, Heutmeier S, Laux V, et al. “Reversal of rivaroxaban-induced anticoagulation with prothrombin complex concentrate, activated prothrombin complex concentrate and recombinant activated factor VII in vitro.” Thromb Res 2014 Apr;133:671-81. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24529498
  3. Eerenberg ES, Kamphuisen PW, Sijpkens MK, et al. “Reversal of rivaroxaban and dabigatran by prothrombin complex concentrate: a randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover study in healthy subjects.” Circulation 2011 Oct 4;124:1573-9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21900088
  4. Zahir H, Brown KS, Vandell AG, et al. “Edoxaban effects on bleeding following punch biopsy and reversal by a 4-factor prothrombin complex concentrate.” Circulation 2015 Jan 6;131:82-90. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25403645
  5. Levi M, Moore KT, Castillejos CF, et al. “Comparison of three-factor and four-factor prothrombin complex concentrates regarding reversal of the anticoagulant effects of rivaroxaban in healthy volunteers.” J Thromb Haemost 2014;12:1428-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24811969

Contributed by Hanny Al-Samkari MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.


If you liked this pearl, sign up to get future pearls  “Fresh from oceans of knowledge!”


Should prothrombin complex concentrates be used to reverse anticoagulation from direct factor Xa inhibitors?

In my patient on oral anticoagulation about to undergo coronary stenting, will triple therapy (an oral anticoagulant plus two antiplatelet agents) be necessary or can I get away with double therapy (an oral anticoagulant plus a single antiplatelet agent)?


Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) who need percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) after acute coronary syndrome or for stable angina pose a treatment challenge as oral anticoagulants (OACs) and dual antiplatelet therapy (DAPT) are often used concurrently to decrease the risk of systemic thromboembolism and stent thrombosis. However, “triple therapy”, including aspirin, a P2Y12 inhibitor, and an OAC (eg, warfarin or a direct oral anticoagulant-DOAC), also increases the risk of bleeding, necessitating several recent landmark trials to better address the subject.

Two modest-sized RCTs (WOEST and ISAR-TRIPLE) reported that when compared to triple therapy (DAPT plus warfarin), double therapy (single antiplatelet agent plus INR-targeted warfarin) is associated with reduced risk of bleeding complications without an increased risk of thrombotic events. 1,2

Two larger RCTs, PIONEER AF-PCI and RE-DUAL PCI, studied rivaroxaban and dabigatran, respectively, in patients with non-valvular AF undergoing PCI and found a reduction in bleeding events in patients receiving double therapy (single antiplatelet agent plus DOAC) compared to triple therapy (DAPT plus warfarin), without an increased risk of thrombotic complications. 3,4

Collectively, these studies suggest that it may be safe to treat patients with increased risk of bleeding with double therapy (even immediately following PCI) without an increase in thrombotic events. If triple therapy is elected, duration should be minimized, clopidogrel should be preferred over more potent P2Y12 inhibitors, and a PPI should be considered.



  1. Dewilde WJ, Oirbans T, Verheugt FW, et al. Use of clopidogrel with or without aspirin in patients taking oral anticoagulant therapy and undergoing percutaneous coronary intervention: an open-label, randomised, controlled trial. Lancet. 2013;381:1107-15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23415013
  2. Fiedler KA, Maeng M, Mehilli J, et al. Duration of triple therapy in patients requiring oral anticoagulation after drug-eluting stent Implantation: The ISAR-TRIPLE Trial. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2015;65:1619-29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25908066
  3. Gibson CM, Mehran R, Bode C, et al. Prevention of bleeding in patients with atrial fibrillation undergoing PCI. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:2423-2434. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1611594
  4. Cannon CP, Bhatt DL, Oldgren J, et al. Dual antithrombotic therapy with dabigatran after PCI in atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. Published online, Aug, 27, 2017. http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/NEJMoa1708454


Contributed by Amulya Nagarur, MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA

In my patient on oral anticoagulation about to undergo coronary stenting, will triple therapy (an oral anticoagulant plus two antiplatelet agents) be necessary or can I get away with double therapy (an oral anticoagulant plus a single antiplatelet agent)?

What is the significance of a prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) in my patient with suspected antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)?

APS is an acquired hypercoagulable state which presents classically as recurrent arterial and/or venous thrombosis and is a major cause of late first- and second-trimester spontaneous fetal loss. In addition to thrombotic complications, diagnosis of APS requires the presence of ≥ 1 of the following antiphospholipid antibodies on 2 occasions ≥12 weeks apart: 1) anti-ß2-glycoprotein 1 antibodies; 2) anticardiolipin antibodies; and 3) lupus anticoagulant (LA)1.  

An unexpected prolongation of aPTT may be a clue to the presence of APS and may be explained by the in vitro prevention of the assembly of the prothrombinase complex—which catalyzes the conversion of prothrombin to thrombin— by LA2,3.  

Because the phospholipid component of the reagent used in aPTT tests determines its sensitivity to LA, aPTT results may vary, influenced by the type and concentration of phospholipids used in the assay. Other factors such as acute phase reaction associated with increased fibrinogen and factor VIII levels may also impact the results by shortening the aPTT and potentially masking a weak LA2.




  1. Giannakopoulos B, Passam F, Ioannou Y, Krilis SA. How we diagnose the antiphospholipid syndrome.Blood. 2009;113:985-94.
  2. 2. Abo SM, DeBari VA. Laboratory evaluation of the antiphospholipid syndrome. Ann Clin Lab Sci 2007;37:3-14.
  3. Smock KJ, Rodgers GM. Laboratory identification of lupus anticoagulants. Am J Hematol. 2009;84(7):440-2.



Contributed by Ricardo Ortiz, medical student, Harvard Medical School

What is the significance of a prolonged activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) in my patient with suspected antiphospholipid syndrome (APS)?

My hospitalized patient has developed hyperkalemia while on heparin prophylaxis. Can heparin really cause hyperkalemia and what is its mechanism?

Heparin is one of the most overlooked causes of hyperkalemia in hospitalized patients, occurring in 5-8% of treated patients, including those on thromboprophylaxis1.

The mechanism of heparin-induced hyperkalemia appears to be through suppression of aldosterone synthesis by inhibiting the function of the glomerulosa zone of the adrenal medulla2,3.  Such inhibitory action is usually of no consequence when renal function is normal and potassium excretion is not otherwise impaired.

The risk of heparin-induced hyperkalemia is increased in the elderly, those with preexisting diabetes mellitus or renal insufficiency, as well patients on concomitant use of certain drugs such as spironolactone, ACE inhibitors, NSAIDs, and trimethoprim2

Hyperkalemia is usually detected after at least 3-4 days of treatment with subcutaneous heparin, and usually resolves within a few days of  discontinuation of therapy1,2.  Fractionated heparin products such as enoxaparin may also be associated with hyperkalemia2 but the risk appears to be lower1.

Fludrocortisone has been used to normalize serum potassium in patients who  remain on heparin.4

If you liked this post, sign up under MENU and receive future pearls straight into your mailbox!



  1. Potti A, Danielson B, Badreddine R, et al. Potassium homeostasis in patients receiving prophylactic enoxaparin therapy. J Thromb Haemost 2004;2:1208-9. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1538-7836.2004.00791.x/pdf
  2. Thomas CM, Thomas J, Smeeton F, et al. Heparin-induced hyperkalemia. Diabetes Res Clin Pract 2008;80:e7-e8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18343525
  3.  Liu AA, Bui T, Nguyen HV, et al. Subcutaneous unfractionated heparin-induced hyperkalemia in an elderly patient. Australas J Ageing 2009;28:97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19566805
  4. Brown G. Fludrocortisone for heparin-induced hyperkalemia. CJHP 2011;64:463-4. https://www.cjhp-online.ca/index.php/cjhp/article/view/1091/1394


My hospitalized patient has developed hyperkalemia while on heparin prophylaxis. Can heparin really cause hyperkalemia and what is its mechanism?

Can novel oral anticoagulants (NOAC) be reversed?

Since their relatively recent introduction, a major concern over NOAC use has been the lack of available reversal agents akin to vitamin K or fresh frozen plasma used to reverse anticoagulation effect of warfarin.

Fortunately, there are currently 2 FDA-approved NOAC reversal agents (idarucizumab and andexanet alfpha) and 1 NOAC on breakthrough or fast-track status at the FDA (1,2):

  • Idarucizumab, a humanized mouse antibody fragment, or Fab, targeted specifically for reversal of dabigatran. FDA approved
  • Andexanet alfa, a class-specific antidote for reversal of direct factor Xa inhibitors (apixaban, rivaroxaban, edoxaban), as well as an indirect factor Xa inhibitor, enoxaparin. FDA approved
  • Ciraparantag (PER977), a synthetic water-soluble compound that reverses direct thrombin (dabigatran), direct factor Xa (apixaban, rivaroxaban, edoxaban), and indirect factor Xa inhibitors (enoxaparin). Currently under investigation.


1. Ansell JE. Universal, class-specific, and drug-specific reversal agents for the new oral anticoagulants. J Thromb Thrombolysis 2016;41:248-52.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26449414

2. Connolly SJ, Milling TJ, Eikelboom JW, etal.  Andexanet alfa for acute major bleeding associated with factor Xa inhibitors. N Eng J Med 2016;375:1131-41. https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1607887

Contributed in part by William L. Hwang, MD, Mass General Hospital, Boston, MA.

Can novel oral anticoagulants (NOAC) be reversed?