Immediate and Delayed Traumatic Intracranial Haemorrhage in Patients With Head Trauma and Preinjury Warfarin or Clopidogrel Use
It is a well known fact that anticoagulation plus trauma to the head leads to "badness". This study from UC Davis School of Medicine, California, published in the July 2012 Annals this month aimed to delineate the relationship further...
Patients receiving warfarin or clopidogrel are considered at increased risk for traumatic intracranial hemorrhage after blunt head trauma. The prevalence of immediate traumatic intracranial hemorrhage and the cumulative incidence of delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage in these patients, however, are unknown. The objective of this study is to address these gaps in knowledge.
A prospective, observational study at 2 trauma centers and 4 community hospitals enrolled emergency department (ED) patients with blunt head trauma and preinjury warfarin or clopidogrel use from April 2009 through January 2011. Patients were followed for 2 weeks. The prevalence of immediate traumatic intracranial hemorrhage and the cumulative incidence of delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage were calculated from patients who received initial cranial computed tomography (CT) in the ED. Delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage was defined as traumatic intracranial hemorrhage within 2 weeks after an initially normal CT scan result and in the absence of repeated head trauma.
A total of 1,064 patients were enrolled (768 warfarin patients [72.2%] and 296 clopidogrel patients [27.8%]). There were 364 patients (34.2%) from Level I or II trauma centers and 700 patients (65.8%) from community hospitals. One thousand patients received a cranial CT scan in the ED. Both warfarin and clopidogrel groups had similar demographic and clinical characteristics, although concomitant aspirin use was more prevalent among patients receiving clopidogrel. The prevalence of immediate traumatic intracranial hemorrhage was higher in patients receiving clopidogrel (33/276, 12.0%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 8.4% to 16.4%) than patients receiving warfarin (37/724, 5.1%; 95% CI 3.6% to 7.0%), relative risk 2.31 (95% CI 1.48 to 3.63). Delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage was identified in 4 of 687 (0.6%; 95% CI 0.2% to 1.5%) patients receiving warfarin and 0 of 243 (0%; 95% CI 0% to 1.5%) patients receiving clopidogrel.
Although there may be unmeasured confounders that limit intergroup comparison, patients receiving clopidogrel have a significantly higher prevalence of immediate traumatic intracranial hemorrhage compared with patients receiving warfarin. Delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage is rare and occurred only in patients receiving warfarin. Discharging patients receiving anticoagulant or antiplatelet medications from the ED after a normal cranial CT scan result is reasonable, but appropriate instructions are required because delayed traumatic intracranial hemorrhage may occur.
The bottom line from this study
- Immediate traumatic intracranial bleeds are more common with clopidogrel than with warfarin
- Delayed intracranial bleed is a feature particularly in those patients on warfarin.
- Good discharge instructions are vital for those patients discharged after negative CT, as bleeds do occur (albeit rarely)