12 Oct 11
By R Hall, D Mazer
In the normal course of the delivery of care, anesthesiologists encounter many patients who are receiving drugs that affect platelet function as a fundamental part of primary and secondary management of atherosclerotic thrombotic disease. There are several antiplatelet drugs available for use in clinical practice and several under investigation. Aspirin and clopidogrel (alone and in combination) have been the most studied and have the most favorable risk-benefit profiles of drugs currently available. Prasugrel was recently approved for patients with acute coronary syndrome undergoing percutaneous interventions. Other drugs such as dipyridamole and cilostazol have not been as extensively investigated. There are several newer investigational drugs such as cangrelor and ticagrelor, but whether they confer significant additional benefits remains to be established. Management of patients who are receiving antiplatelet drugs during the perioperative period requires an understanding of the underlying pathology and rationale for their administration, pharmacology and pharmacokinetics, and drug interactions. Furthermore, the risk and benefit assessment of discontinuing or continuing these drugs should be made bearing in mind the proposed surgery and its inherent risk for bleeding complications as well as decisions relating to appropriate use of general or some form of regional anesthesia. In general, the safest approach to prevent thrombosis seems to be continuation of these drugs throughout the perioperative period except where concerns about perioperative bleeding outweigh those associated with the development of thrombotic occlusion. Knowledge of the pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics of antiplatelet drugs may allow practitioners to anticipate difficulties associated with drug withdrawal and administration in the perioperative period including the potential for drug interactions.