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Arch Intern Med. 1996 Mar 25;156(6):658-60.

Fecal hemoglobin excretion in elderly patients with atrial fibrillation: combined aspirin and low-dose warfarin vs conventional warfarin therapy.

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  • 1Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, Fla, USA.



Antithrombotic prophylaxis using combined aspirin and low-dose warfarin is under evaluation in several clinical trials. However, therapy may result in increased gastrointestinal blood loss and clinical bleeding vs conventional single-agent antithrombotic therapy.


To assess differences in gastrointestinal blood loss, we measured quantitative fecal hemoglobin equivalents (HemoQuant, Mayo Medical Laboratory, Rochester, Minn) in 117 patients, mean age 71 years, 1 month after initiation of assigned therapy in the Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation III Study. Sixty-three of these patients who had characteristics for high risk of stroke were randomly assigned to conventional adjusted-dose warfarin therapy (international normalized ratio, 2.0 to 3.0) or low-dose combined therapy (warfarin [international normalization ratio,<1.5] plus 325 mg/d of enteric-coated aspirin). The remaining 54 patients with low risk of stroke received 325 mg/d of enteric-coated aspirin.


Among the 63 at high risk of stroke, abnormal values (>2mg of hemoglobin per gram of stool) were detected in 11% and values greater than 4 mg of hemoglobin per gram of stool were found in 8%. Mean ( +/- SD) values were more for those randomly assigned to receive combined therapy (1.7 +/- 3.3 mg of hemoglobin per gram of stool vs adjusted-dose warfarin therapy, 1.0 +/- 1.9 mg/g; P=.003). The 54 nonrandomized patients with low risk of stroke receiving aspirin alone had a mean (+/- SD) HemoQuant value of 0.8 +/- 0.7mg of hemoglobin per gram of stool 1 month after entry in the study.


Abnormal levels of fecal hemoglobin excretion were common in elderly patients with high risk of atrial fibrillation 1 month after randomization to prophylactic antithrombotic therapy. Combined warfarin and aspirin therapy was associated with greater fecal hemoglobin excretion than standard warfarin therapy, suggesting the potential for increased gastrointestinal hemorrhage.

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