Patient Care

Single vs. Dual Antiplatelet Therapy after Stroke


Clinical question: Is dual antiplatelet therapy more beneficial or harmful than monotherapy after ischemic stroke?

Background: It is recommended that patients with ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) receive lifelong antiplatelet therapy; however, there have been insufficient studies evaluating the long-term safety of dual antiplatelet therapy.

Study design: Meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials (RCTs)

Setting: Data from PubMed, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials.

Synopsis: Data from seven RCTs, including 39,574 patients with recent TIA or ischemic stroke, were reviewed. Comparisons were made regarding occurrence of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) and recurrent stroke between patients receiving dual antiplatelet therapy and those receiving aspirin or clopidogrel monotherapy. All patients were treated for at least one year.

There was no difference in recurrent stroke or ICH between patients on dual antiplatelet therapy versus aspirin monotherapy. Patients treated with dual antiplatelet therapy did have a 46% increased risk of ICH without any additional protective benefit for recurrent stroke or TIA when compared with patients on clopidogrel monotherapy.

This information should not be applied in the acute setting, given the high risk of stroke after TIA or ischemic stroke. One major limitation of this study was that the individual trials used different combinations of dual antiplatelet therapy.

Bottom line: The risk of recurrent stroke or TIA after dual antiplatelet therapy and after monotherapy with aspirin or clopidogrel is equal, but the risk of ICH compared to clopidogrel monotherapy is increased.

Citation: Lee M, Saver JL, Hong KS, Rao NM, Wu YL, Ovbiagele B. Risk-benefit profile of long-term dual- versus single-antiplatelet therapy among patients with ischemic stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(7):463-470.

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