The perioperative management of oral anticoagulant therapy (OAT) often arouses controversy between surgeons and internists.

In geriatric patients, cataract surgery for those who are taking vitamin K antagonists is a common clinical procedure. Phacoemulsification requires a 3 mm incision involving a tissue devoid of blood vessels. This study reports the experience of an Italian Anticoagulation Management Service (AMS) with 135 anticoagulated patients on long-term anticoagulant therapy who underwent phacoemulsification performed by the same ophthalmologist team from January 2001 to December 2005. The patients received either topical (30%) or peribulbar (70%) anaesthesia. Data were collected by physicians with specialized software, but the dosage of oral anticoagulant was manual. Two oral vitamin K antagonisists are available in Italy: acenocumarol and warfarin. We prepared all patients in accordance with the following standardized protocol :

  • the scheduled dose was always omitted the day before surgery

  • an INR measurement was provided 3–5 days before the invasive procedure;

  • if the patient’s INR was below 3, we simply omitted the scheduled dose of the day before cataract surgery

  • if the patient’s INR was above 3, we withheld two or more scheduled doses to allow the INR to fall to 2.5 or less

  • 1 hour before cataract surgery, INR was measured

  • if the patient’s INR was below 2.5, phacoemulsification was performed

Results: This standardized procedural protocol allowed the surgeon to carry out phacoemulsification with INR always below 2.5. We observed only one peribulbar bleeding (0.7%) during peribulbar anaesthesia before the corneal incision was made. No thromboembolic complications were registered during three months of follow up. We compared our results with the data of an earlier cohort of 7014 conventional patients who underwent this eye surgery in the same ophthalmologic institute. We did not observe statistical differences between the two groups with regard to hemorragic complications.

Conclusions: The risk of thromboembolism when antithrombotic therapy is interrupted is a well-grounded concern, particularly for patients with mechanical heart valves. Low molecular weight heparin bridging is a valid but more complicated alternative. Our study demonstrates the feasibility and safety of this simple standardized protocol which avoids OAT interruption. Therefore, we conclude that in patients receiving OAT, it is not necessary for the anticoagulant effect to wear off before cataract surgery is performed.

Disclosure: No relevant conflicts of interest to declare.

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