Clopidogrel and aspirin for TIA

A large Chinese trial compared aspirin alone with combination aspirin / clopidogrel in patients who had had a TIA in the previous 24 hours. 90-day stroke outcome was reduced in the combination therapy group without an apparent increase in haemorrhage.

Clopidogrel with Aspirin in Acute Minor Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack
N Engl J Med. 2013 Jul 4;369(1):11-19

Background Stroke is common during the first few weeks after a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or minor ischemic stroke. Combination therapy with clopidogrel and aspirin may provide greater protection against subsequent stroke than aspirin alone.

Methods In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted at 114 centers in China, we randomly assigned 5170 patients within 24 hours after the onset of minor ischemic stroke or high-risk TIA to combination therapy with clopidogrel and aspirin (clopidogrel at an initial dose of 300 mg, followed by 75 mg per day for 90 days, plus aspirin at a dose of 75 mg per day for the first 21 days) or to placebo plus aspirin (75 mg per day for 90 days). All participants received open-label aspirin at a clinician-determined dose of 75 to 300 mg on day 1. The primary outcome was stroke (ischemic or hemorrhagic) during 90 days of follow-up in an intention-to-treat analysis. Treatment differences were assessed with the use of a Cox proportional-hazards model, with study center as a random effect.

Results Stroke occurred in 8.2% of patients in the clopidogrel-aspirin group, as compared with 11.7% of those in the aspirin group (hazard ratio, 0.68; 95% confidence interval, 0.57 to 0.81; P<0.001). Moderate or severe hemorrhage occurred in seven patients (0.3%) in the clopidogrel-aspirin group and in eight (0.3%) in the aspirin group (P=0.73); the rate of hemorrhagic stroke was 0.3% in each group.

Conclusions Among patients with TIA or minor stroke who can be treated within 24 hours after the onset of symptoms, the combination of clopidogrel and aspirin is superior to aspirin alone for reducing the risk of stroke in the first 90 days and does not increase the risk of hemorrhage.

Family presence during resuscitation

CPR-iconFamilies allowed to be present during attempted cardiopulmonary resuscitation had improved psychological outcomes at ninety days.

Adult family members of adult patients were studied in this randomized study from France.

Resuscitation team member stress levels and effectiveness of resuscitation did not appear to be affected by family presence.

Family Presence during Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
N Engl J Med. 2013 Mar 14;368(11):1008-18

BACKGROUND: The effect of family presence during cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on the family members themselves and the medical team remains controversial.

METHODS: We enrolled 570 relatives of patients who were in cardiac arrest and were given CPR by 15 prehospital emergency medical service units. The units were randomly assigned either to systematically offer the family member the opportunity to observe CPR (intervention group) or to follow standard practice regarding family presence (control group). The primary end point was the proportion of relatives with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)-related symptoms on day 90. Secondary end points included the presence of anxiety and depression symptoms and the effect of family presence on medical efforts at resuscitation, the well-being of the health care team, and the occurrence of medicolegal claims.

RESULTS: In the intervention group, 211 of 266 relatives (79%) witnessed CPR, as compared with 131 of 304 relatives (43%) in the control group. In the intention-to-treat analysis, the frequency of PTSD-related symptoms was significantly higher in the control group than in the intervention group (adjusted odds ratio, 1.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 to 2.5; P=0.004) and among family members who did not witness CPR than among those who did (adjusted odds ratio, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.5; P=0.02). Relatives who did not witness CPR had symptoms of anxiety and depression more frequently than those who did witness CPR. Family-witnessed CPR did not affect resuscitation characteristics, patient survival, or the level of emotional stress in the medical team and did not result in medicolegal claims.

CONCLUSIONS: Family presence during CPR was associated with positive results on psychological variables and did not interfere with medical efforts, increase stress in the health care team, or result in medicolegal conflicts.

Age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values

Age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values (age×10 µg/L) improve specificity without losing sensitivity for venous thromboembolism. This could spare many elderly patients unnecessary imaging. Full text is available free from the BMJ.

Diagnostic accuracy of conventional or age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values in older patients with suspected venous thromboembolism: systematic review and meta-analysis>
BMJ. 2013 May 3;346:f2492

OBJECTIVE: To review the diagnostic accuracy of D-dimer testing in older patients (>50 years) with suspected venous thromboembolism, using conventional or age adjusted D-dimer cut-off values.

DESIGN Systematic review and bivariate random effects meta-analysis.

DATA SOURCES: We searched Medline and Embase for studies published before 21 June 2012 and we contacted the authors of primary studies.

STUDY SELECTION: Primary studies that enrolled older patients with suspected venous thromboembolism in whom D-dimer testing, using both conventional (500 µg/L) and age adjusted (age × 10 µg/L) cut-off values, and reference testing were performed. For patients with a non-high clinical probability, 2 × 2 tables were reconstructed and stratified by age category and applied D-dimer cut-off level.

RESULTS: 13 cohorts including 12,497 patients with a non-high clinical probability were included in the meta-analysis. The specificity of the conventional cut-off value decreased with increasing age, from 57.6% (95% confidence interval 51.4% to 63.6%) in patients aged 51-60 years to 39.4% (33.5% to 45.6%) in those aged 61-70, 24.5% (20.0% to 29.7% in those aged 71-80, and 14.7% (11.3% to 18.6%) in those aged >80. Age adjusted cut-off values revealed higher specificities over all age categories: 62.3% (56.2% to 68.0%), 49.5% (43.2% to 55.8%), 44.2% (38.0% to 50.5%), and 35.2% (29.4% to 41.5%), respectively. Sensitivities of the age adjusted cut-off remained above 97% in all age categories.

CONCLUSIONS: The application of age adjusted cut-off values for D-dimer tests substantially increases specificity without modifying sensitivity, thereby improving the clinical utility of D-dimer testing in patients aged 50 or more with a non-high clinical probability.

Restricting transfusion in upper GI bleeding

Improved outcomes and reduced complications were associated with a restrictive transfusion strategy in patients with upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Note that patients with “massive exsanguinating bleeding” were excluded from the study so this shouldn’t be extrapolated to such presentations.

The benefit seemed to be most marked in patients with variceal haemorrhage, but not those with the most severe Child-Pugh class. In portal hypertensive-related bleeding, transfusion may increase portal pressure and exacerbate bleeding.

The patients were ‘scoped within 6 hours, and less than 10% received FFP or platelets. Both groups averaged over 5 litres of crystalloid in the first 72 hours.

Transfusion Strategies for Acute Upper Gastrointestinal Bleeding
N Engl J Med. 2013 Jan 3;368(1):11-21

BACKGROUND: The hemoglobin threshold for transfusion of red cells in patients with acute gastrointestinal bleeding is controversial. We compared the efficacy and safety of a restrictive transfusion strategy with those of a liberal transfusion strategy.

METHODS: We enrolled 921 patients with severe acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding and randomly assigned 461 of them to a restrictive strategy (transfusion when the hemoglobin level fell below 7 g per deciliter) and 460 to a liberal strategy (transfusion when the hemoglobin fell below 9 g per deciliter). Randomization was stratified according to the presence or absence of liver cirrhosis.

RESULTS: A total of 225 patients assigned to the restrictive strategy (51%), as compared with 61 assigned to the liberal strategy (14%), did not receive transfusions (P<0.001) [corrected].The probability of survival at 6 weeks was higher in the restrictive-strategy group than in the liberal-strategy group (95% vs. 91%; hazard ratio for death with restrictive strategy, 0.55; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.33 to 0.92; P=0.02). Further bleeding occurred in 10% of the patients in the restrictive-strategy group as compared with 16% of the patients in the liberal-strategy group (P=0.01), and adverse events occurred in 40% as compared with 48% (P=0.02). The probability of survival was slightly higher with the restrictive strategy than with the liberal strategy in the subgroup of patients who had bleeding associated with a peptic ulcer (hazard ratio, 0.70; 95% CI, 0.26 to 1.25) and was significantly higher in the subgroup of patients with cirrhosis and Child-Pugh class A or B disease (hazard ratio, 0.30; 95% CI, 0.11 to 0.85), but not in those with cirrhosis and Child-Pugh class C disease (hazard ratio, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.45 to 2.37). Within the first 5 days, the portal-pressure gradient increased significantly in patients assigned to the liberal strategy (P=0.03) but not in those assigned to the restrictive strategy.

CONCLUSIONS: As compared with a liberal transfusion strategy, a restrictive strategy significantly improved outcomes in patients with acute upper gastrointestinal bleeding. (Funded by Fundació Investigació Sant Pau; number, NCT00414713.).

Pleurodesis for spontaneous pneumothorax?

A Taiwanese study demonstrated a lower recurrence rate when primary spontaneous pneumothoraces requiring drainage received pleurodesis using minocycline(1). However, significantly more pleurodesed patients required opioid analgesia, and the success rates were less than are found with surgical methods, which are recommended in the West, where pleurodesis is reserved for patients unfit for surgery(2).

1. Simple aspiration and drainage and intrapleural minocycline pleurodesis versus simple aspiration and drainage for the initial treatment of primary spontaneous pneumothorax: an open-label, parallel-group, prospective, randomised, controlled trial
Lancet. 2013 Apr 13;381(9874):1277-82

BACKGROUND: Simple aspiration and drainage is a standard initial treatment for primary spontaneous pneumothorax, but the rate of pneumothorax recurrence is substantial. We investigated whether additional minocycline pleurodesis after simple aspiration and drainage reduces the rate of recurrence.

METHODS: In our open-label, parallel-group, prospective, randomised, controlled trial at two hospitals in Taiwan, patients were aged 15-40 years and had a first episode of primary spontaneous pneumothorax with a rim of air greater than 2 cm on chest radiographs, complete lung expansion without air leakage after pigtail catheter drainage, adequate haematological function, and normal renal and hepatic function. After simple aspiration and drainage via a pigtail catheter, patients were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive 300 mg of minocycline pleurodesis or no further treatment (control group). Randomisation was by computer-generated random numbers in sealed envelopes. Our primary endpoint was rate of pneumothorax recurrence at 1 year. This trial is registered with (NCT00418392).

FINDINGS: Between Dec 31, 2006, and June 30, 2012, 214 patients were randomly assigned-106 to the minocycline group and 108 to the control group (intention-to-treat population). Treatment was unsuccessful within 7 days of randomisation in 14 patients in the minocycline group and 20 patients in the control group. At 1 year, pneumothoraces had recurred in 31 of 106 (29·2%) patients in the minocycline group compared with 53 of 108 (49·1%) in the control group (p=0·003). We noted no procedure-related complications in either group.

INTERPRETATION: Simple aspiration and drainage followed by minocycline pleurodesis is a safe and more effective treatment for primary spontaneous pneumothorax than is simple aspiration and drainage only. Minocycline pleurodesis should be an adjunct to standard treatment for primary spontaneous pneumothorax.

2. Primary spontaneous pneumothorax: to pleurodese or not?
Lancet. 2013 Apr 13;381(9874):1252-4

Isolated LAFB and outcome

A small study followed up an older cohort of patients with isolated left anterior fascicular block on their ECG (isolated left axis deviation), without clinically manifest cardiovascular disease.

Learn about LAFB at Life In The Fast Lane

LAFB was associated with an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, heart failure and death. LAFB is caused by conduction tissue fibrosis, and is a marker of other left heart fibrosis. The patients did not go on to develop left bundle branch block, and only 2 of 39 required pacing in 10 years, suggesting these outcomes were not due to progression of conduction disease.

Long-term Outcomes of Left Anterior Fascicular Block in the Absence of Overt Cardiovascular Disease
JAMA. 2013 Apr 17;309(15):1587-8

5 days of steroids for COPD exacerbation

A randomised trial showed 5 days of oral steroid therapy (40 mg prednisone) was non-inferior to 14 days’ duration in delaying the next exacerbation.

Short-term vs conventional glucocorticoid therapy in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: the REDUCE randomized clinical trial
JAMA. 2013 Jun 5;309(21):2223-31

IMPORTANCE: International guidelines advocate a 7- to 14-day course of systemic glucocorticoid therapy in acute exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). However, the optimal dose and duration are unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether a short-term (5 days) systemic glucocorticoid treatment in patients with COPD exacerbation is noninferior to conventional (14 days) treatment in clinical outcome and whether it decreases the exposure to steroids.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: REDUCE: (Reduction in the Use of Corticosteroids in Exacerbated COPD), a randomized, noninferiority multicenter trial in 5 Swiss teaching hospitals, enrolling 314 patients presenting to the emergency department with acute COPD exacerbation, past or present smokers (≥20 pack-years) without a history of asthma, from March 2006 through February 2011.

INTERVENTIONS: Treatment with 40 mg of prednisone daily for either 5 or 14 days in a placebo-controlled, double-blind fashion. The predefined noninferiority criterion was an absolute increase in exacerbations of at most 15%, translating to a critical hazard ratio of 1.515 for a reference event rate of 50%.

MAIN OUTCOME AND MEASURE: Time to next exacerbation within 180 days.

RESULTS: Of 314 randomized patients, 289 (92%) of whom were admitted to the hospital, 311 were included in the intention-to-treat analysis and 296 in the per-protocol analysis. Hazard ratios for the short-term vs conventional treatment group were 0.95 (90% CI, 0.70 to 1.29; P = .006 for noninferiority) in the intention-to-treat analysis and 0.93 (90% CI, 0.68 to 1.26; P = .005 for noninferiority) in the per-protocol analysis, meeting our noninferiority criterion. In the short-term group, 56 patients (35.9%) reached the primary end point; 57 (36.8%) in the conventional group. Estimates of reexacerbation rates within 180 days were 37.2% (95% CI, 29.5% to 44.9%) in the short-term; 38.4% (95% CI, 30.6% to 46.3%) in the conventional, with a difference of -1.2% (95% CI, -12.2% to 9.8%) between the short-term and the conventional. Among patients with a reexacerbation, the median time to event was 43.5 days (interquartile range [IQR], 13 to 118) in the short-term and 29 days (IQR, 16 to 85) in the conventional. There was no difference between groups in time to death, the combined end point of exacerbation, death, or both and recovery of lung function. In the conventional group, mean cumulative prednisone dose was significantly higher (793 mg [95% CI, 710 to 876 mg] vs 379 mg [95% CI, 311 to 446 mg], P < .001), but treatment-associated adverse reactions, including hyperglycemia and hypertension, did not occur more frequently.

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In patients presenting to the emergency department with acute exacerbations of COPD, 5-day treatment with systemic glucocorticoids was noninferior to 14-day treatment with regard to reexacerbation within 6 months of follow-up but significantly reduced glucocorticoid exposure. These findings support the use of a 5-day glucocorticoid treatment in acute exacerbations of COPD.

Potential new therapy for acute heart failure

Interesting new drug to know about: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2. It’s hard to assess the clinical significance of the statistically significant findings. Let’s see if a benefit is replicated in future studies. It’s hard to imagine a normotensive patient that can’t be fixed with existing therapies though.

Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, for treatment of acute heart failure (RELAX-AHF): a randomised, placebo-controlled trial.

Lancet. 2013 Jan 5;381(9860):29-39

BACKGROUND: Serelaxin, recombinant human relaxin-2, is a vasoactive peptide hormone with many biological and haemodynamic effects. In a pilot study, serelaxin was safe and well tolerated with positive clinical outcome signals in patients with acute heart failure. The RELAX-AHF trial tested the hypothesis that serelaxin-treated patients would have greater dyspnoea relief compared with patients treated with standard care and placebo.

METHODS: RELAX-AHF was an international, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, enrolling patients admitted to hospital for acute heart failure who were randomly assigned (1:1) via a central randomisation scheme blocked by study centre to standard care plus 48-h intravenous infusions of placebo or serelaxin (30 μg/kg per day) within 16 h from presentation. All patients had dyspnoea, congestion on chest radiograph, increased brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal prohormone of BNP, mild-to-moderate renal insufficiency, and systolic blood pressure greater than 125 mm Hg. Patients, personnel administering study drug, and those undertaking study-related assessments were masked to treatment assignment. The primary endpoints evaluating dyspnoea improvement were change from baseline in the visual analogue scale area under the curve (VAS AUC) to day 5 and the proportion of patients with moderate or marked dyspnoea improvement measured by Likert scale during the first 24 h, both analysed by intention to treat. This trial is registered at, NCT00520806.

FINDINGS: 1161 patients were randomly assigned to serelaxin (n=581) or placebo (n=580). Serelaxin improved the VAS AUC primary dyspnoea endpoint (448 mm × h, 95% CI 120-775; p=0·007) compared with placebo, but had no significant effect on the other primary endpoint (Likert scale; placebo, 150 patients [26%]; serelaxin, 156 [27%]; p=0·70). No significant effects were recorded for the secondary endpoints of cardiovascular death or readmission to hospital for heart failure or renal failure (placebo, 75 events [60-day Kaplan-Meier estimate, 13·0%]; serelaxin, 76 events [13·2%]; hazard ratio [HR] 1·02 [0·74-1·41], p=0·89] or days alive out of the hospital up to day 60 (placebo, 47·7 [SD 12·1] days; serelaxin, 48·3 [11·6]; p=0·37). Serelaxin treatment was associated with significant reductions of other prespecified additional endpoints, including fewer deaths at day 180 (placebo, 65 deaths; serelaxin, 42; HR 0·63, 95% CI 0·42-0·93; p=0·019).

INTERPRETATION: Treatment of acute heart failure with serelaxin was associated with dyspnoea relief and improvement in other clinical outcomes, but had no effect on readmission to hospital. Serelaxin treatment was well tolerated and safe, supported by the reduced 180-day mortality

Blood products in trauma & survivor bias

Esky-label.001The observation that patients with haemorrhagic trauma in military and civilian settings do better if they receive coagulation factors and platelets is yet to be replicated in a randomised trial. It has been suggested that the effect may in part be a consequence of survivor bias – ie. that if a patient lives long enough to received some thawed fresh frozen plasma, then they were already more likely to be a survivor and therefore more survivors will be represented in the ‘FFP’ groups vs a ‘no-FFP’ comparison group.

An attempt to eliminate survivor bias was made in the PROMMTT study, which documented the timing of transfusions during active resuscitation and patient outcomes in adult trauma patients who received a transfusion of at least 1 unit of RBCs within 6 hours of admission.

Increased ratios of plasma:RBCs and platelets:RBCs were independently associated with decreased 6-hour mortality, when haemorrhagic death predominated. In the first 6 hours, patients with ratios less than 1:2 were 3 to 4 times more likely to die than patients with ratios of 1:1 or higher.

A prospective trial is underway to identify the optimal ratio of blood products, in the PROPPR study, in which 1:1:1 ratio of plasma:platelets:RBC will be compared with 1:1:2.

The Prospective, Observational, Multicenter, Major Trauma Transfusion (PROMMTT) Study
Arch Surg. 2012 Oct 15:1-10

Objective: To relate in-hospital mortality to early transfusion of plasma and/or platelets and to time-varying plasma:red blood cell (RBC) and platelet:RBC ratios.

Design: Prospective cohort study documenting the timing of transfusions during active resuscitation and patient outcomes. Data were analyzed using time-dependent proportional hazards models.

Setting: Ten US level I trauma centers.

Patients: Adult trauma patients surviving for 30 minutes after admission who received a transfusion of at least 1 unit of RBCs within 6 hours of admission (n = 1245, the original study group) and at least 3 total units (of RBCs, plasma, or platelets) within 24 hours (n = 905, the analysis group).

Main Outcome Measure: In-hospital mortality.

Results: Plasma:RBC and platelet:RBC ratios were not constant during the first 24 hours (P < .001 for both). In a multivariable time-dependent Cox model, increased ratios of plasma:RBCs (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.31; 95% CI, 0.16-0.58) and platelets:RBCs (adjusted hazard ratio = 0.55; 95% CI, 0.31-0.98) were independently associated with decreased 6-hour mortality, when hemorrhagic death predominated. In the first 6 hours, patients with ratios less than 1:2 were 3 to 4 times more likely to die than patients with ratios of 1:1 or higher. After 24 hours, plasma and platelet ratios were unassociated with mortality, when competing risks from nonhemorrhagic causes prevailed.

Conclusions: Higher plasma and platelet ratios early in resuscitation were associated with decreased mortality in patients who received transfusions of at least 3 units of blood products during the first 24 hours after admission. Among survivors at 24 hours, the subsequent risk of death by day 30 was not associated with plasma or platelet ratios.

Stroke thrombolysis outcomes from registry

Data from a large national stroke registry are reported to show that in patients who received tPA, outcomes were worse the later it was given. From a registry of over a million patients, the study group included 58353 patients from 1395 sites treated after emergency department arrival with IV tPA within 4.5 hours of symptom onset. Reported odds ratios were small but statistically significant in this large sample size. There was a 4.9% rate of intracranial haemorrhage.

As there is no comparison with patients who did not receive tPA, one cannot conclude from this study that tPA is either beneficial or harmful. It may however be used as an argument that if you’re working in a centre where the patients are going to get the tPA, it’s advisable not to delay it.

Time to treatment with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator and outcome from acute ischemic stroke
JAMA. 2013 Jun 19;309(23):2480-8

IMPORTANCE: Randomized clinical trials suggest the benefit of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) in acute ischemic stroke is time dependent. However, modest sample sizes have limited characterization of the extent to which onset to treatment (OTT) time influences outcome; and the generalizability of findings to clinical practice is uncertain.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the degree to which OTT time is associated with outcome among patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with intraveneous tPA.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PATIENTS: Data were analyzed from 58,353 patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with tPA within 4.5 hours of symptom onset in 1395 hospitals participating in the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Program, April 2003 to March 2012.

MAIN OUTCOMES AND MEASURES: Relationship between OTT time and in-hospital mortality, symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, ambulatory status at discharge, and discharge destination.

RESULTS: Among the 58,353 tPA-treated patients, median age was 72 years, 50.3% were women, median OTT time was 144 minutes (interquartile range, 115-170), 9.3% (5404) had OTT time of 0 to 90 minutes, 77.2% (45,029) had OTT time of 91 to 180 minutes, and 13.6% (7920) had OTT time of 181 to 270 minutes. Median pretreatment National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale documented in 87.7% of patients was 11 (interquartile range, 6-17). Patient factors most strongly associated with shorter OTT included greater stroke severity (odds ratio [OR], 2.8; 95% CI, 2.5-3.1 per 5-point increase), arrival by ambulance (OR, 5.9; 95% CI, 4.5-7.3), and arrival during regular hours (OR, 4.6; 95% CI, 3.8-5.4). Overall, there were 5142 (8.8%) in-hospital deaths, 2873 (4.9%) patients had intracranial hemorrhage, 19,491 (33.4%) patients achieved independent ambulation at hospital discharge, and 22,541 (38.6%) patients were discharged to home. Faster OTT, in 15-minute increments, was associated with reduced in-hospital mortality (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98; P < .001), reduced symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (OR, 0.96; 95% CI, 0.95-0.98; P < .001), increased achievement of independent ambulation at discharge (OR, 1.04; 95% CI, 1.03-1.05; P < .001), and increased discharge to home (OR, 1.03; 95% CI, 1.02-1.04; P < .001).

CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: In a registry representing US clinical practice, earlier thrombolytic treatment was associated with reduced mortality and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, and higher rates of independent ambulation at discharge and discharge to home following acute ischemic stroke. These findings support intensive efforts to accelerate hospital presentation and thrombolytic treatment in patients with stroke.