Clinical question: Do patients on oral anticoagulation with high fall risk have an increased incidence of major bleeding?
Background: Despite proven efficacy, oral anticoagulation remains underprescribed. The most commonly cited reasons for not providing oral anticoagulation when clinically indicated are risk of falls and concern for major bleeding.
Study design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting: Internal-medicine inpatient and outpatient services of a university hospital in Switzerland.
Synopsis: This study followed 515 patients on oral anticoagulation for 12 months. Patients at high risk for falls were identified using validated questions known to predict fall risk. Overall, 35 patients had a first major bleed. In multivariate analysis, high fall risk was not associated with an increased incidence of major bleeding (hazard ratio 1.09; 95% confidence interval, 0.54-2.21). Only 1 in 3 fall-related bleeds occurred in the high-fall-risk group.
This study was limited significantly by selection bias. The majority of patients studied already were on anticoagulation therapy for at least three months prior to enrolling in the study, presumably without major bleeding. It is probable that some higher-risk patients were not offered anticoagulation at all and would have been ineligible for the study. This study cohort might have had a lower bleeding risk than members of the general population being started on anticoagulation.
Bottom line: This prospective cohort study shows that patients on oral anticoagulation at high risk of falls did not have significantly increased rates of major bleeding; however, selection bias might have led to an underestimation of bleeding risk. Hospitalists should continue to individualize anticoagulation decisions.
Citation: Donzé J, Clair C, Hug B, et al. Risk of falls and major bleeds in patients on oral anticoagulation therapy. Am J Med. 2012;125:773-778.