Risks and Benefits of Ceasing or Continuing Anticoagulant Medication for Image-Guided Procedures for Spine Pain: A Systematic Review

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Pain medicine (Malden, Mass.)


Objective: To determine the risks of continuing or ceasing anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications prior to image-guided procedures for spine pain.

Design: Systematic review of the literature with comprehensive analysis of the published data.

Interventions: Following a search of the literature for studies pertaining to spine pain interventions in patients on anticoagulant medication, seven reviewers appraised the studies identified and assessed the quality of evidence presented.

Outcome Measures: Evidence was sought regarding risks associated with either continuing or ceasing anticoagulant and antiplatelet medication in patients having image-guided interventional spine procedures. The evidence was evaluated in accordance with the Grades of Recommendation, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation system.

Results: From a source of 120 potentially relevant articles, 14 provided applicable evidence. Procedures involving interlaminar access carry a nonzero risk of hemorrhagic complications, regardless of whether anticoagulants are ceased or continued. For other procedures, hemorrhagic complications have not been reported, and case series indicate that they are safe when performed in patients who continue anticoagulants. Three articles reported the adverse effects of ceasing anticoagulants, with serious consequences, including death.

Conclusions: Other than for interlaminar procedures, the evidence does not support the view that anticoagulant and antiplatelet medication must be ceased before image-guided spine pain procedures. Meanwhile, the evidence shows that ceasing anticoagulants carries a risk of serious consequences, including death. Guidelines on the use of anticoagulants should reflect these opposing bodies of evidence.

Medical Subject Headings

Ablation Techniques; Anticoagulants; Denervation; Hematoma; Humans; Pain Management; Stroke; Surgery, Computer-Assisted

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