Aspirin Noninferior to Rivaroxaban for Anticoagulation after Joint Replacement

Aspirin for OBuzzOrthoBuzz occasionally receives posts from guest bloggers. This guest post comes from Amir Khoshbin, MD in response to a recent randomized trial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The ideal anticoagulation protocol for patients who have received a total knee or hip replacement remains controversial. Results from the recently published “Extended Venous Thromboembolism Prophylaxis Comparing Rivaroxaban to Aspirin Following Total Hip and Knee Arthroplasty (EPCAT) II” trial add some clarity to this topic.

This large double-blind, randomized noninferiority trial compared two outpatient anticoagulation regimens after elective unilateral primary or revision hip or knee arthroplasty. Almost 3,500 patients were enrolled, and they all received 10 mg of rivaroxaban daily until postoperative day five. After that, 1,707 patients were randomized to receive 81 mg of aspirin daily, while the remaining 1,717 patients received 10 mg of rivaroxaban daily. Per previous recommendations, total knee arthroplasty patients received anticoagulation for a total of 14 days, and total hip arthroplasty patients continued anticoagulation for 30 days.

Twelve patients in the rivaroxaban group (0.7%) had a venous thromboembolism event in the 90-day postsurgical period, versus 11 patients (0.64%) in the aspirin group (p >0.05). In terms of complications from anticoagulation treatment, 5 patients (0.29%) in the rivaroxaban group and 8 patients in the aspirin group (0.47%) had a major bleeding event (p >0.05).  It is worth noting that there were multiple different implants, approaches, and perioperative protocols followed in the study. Also, very few patients with a history of venous thromboembolism (81 patients, 2.4%), cancer (80 patients, 2.3%) or smoking (319 patients, 9.3%) were included in the study. These patients would be considered at higher risk for venous thromboembolism after joint replacement.

These limitations notwithstanding, the results from prophylaxis with aspirin after an initial five days of rivaroxaban were not significantly different from results with continued rivaroxaban. Institutional prices vary, but in this time of bundled care, the financial implications of studies like this one could be great. Anecdotally, in our institution the price of rivaroxaban is 140 times that of aspirin.

This is not the first study whose findings support the use of aspirin for venous thromboembolism prophylaxis, but it is one of the largest. It appears that such findings are starting to change the practice of some orthopaedic surgeons. We expect that additional large studies will provide further insight into this question.

Amir Khoshbin, MD is an assistant professor of orthopaedics at the University of Toronto and a member of the JBJS Social Media Advisory Board. He can be reached at khoshbinam@smh.ca.

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