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J Trauma. 2005 Nov;59(5):1131-7; discussion 1137-9.

Rapid warfarin reversal in anticoagulated patients with traumatic intracranial hemorrhage reduces hemorrhage progression and mortality.

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  • 1Department of General Surgery, Division of Trauma, William Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak, Michigan, USA.



A prospective cohort study at our institution demonstrated a 48% mortality rate in warfarin anticoagulated trauma patients sustaining intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) compared with a 10% mortality rate in nonanticoagulated patients. Forty percent of patients demonstrated progression of their ICH, despite anticoagulation reversal, with a resultant 65% mortality rate. Seventy-one percent of these patients initially presented with a Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) score > or = 14 and a 'minor' ICH. We postulated that early diagnosis of ICH and rapid anticoagulation reversal would reduce ICH progression rates and mortality.


All anticoagulated patients with known or suspected head trauma were entered into the Coumadin protocol. The protocol ensured immediate triage and physician evaluation, head computed tomography (CT) scan, and fresh frozen plasma administration in patients with documented ICH.


Eighty-two patients were entered into the protocol with ICH documented in 19 (23%). Sixteen of 19 patients (84%) presented with GCS > or = 14. Median international normalized ratio (INR) for treated patients with ICH was 2.7 versus 2.5 for patients without ICH (p = 0.546). Mean time to initiate warfarin reversal was 1.9 hours for protocol patients versus 4.3 hours for preprotocol patients (p < 0.001). Two of 19 (10%) protocol patients with ICH died. However, both patients presented >10 hours after injury with a severe ICH. This 10% mortality rate is significantly less than the 48% mortality rate seen previously (p < 0.001) and is now consistent with that observed in similarly injured patients not on anticoagulation.


Neither the initial GCS nor INR in anticoagulated trauma patients reliably identifies patients with ICH. Rapid confirmation of ICH with expedited head CT scan combined with prompt reversal of warfarin anticoagulation with fresh frozen plasma decreases ICH progression and reduces mortality.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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