Purpose: Little attention has been paid to the importance of clinical factors associated with bleeding complications caused by the use of thrombolytic agents. The goal of our study was to examine clinical and hematologic factors associated with an increased risk of bleeding in a prospectively observed population that received intravenous tissue plasminogen activator for acute myocardial infarction. Patients and methods: Bleeding complications were evaluated in 386 consecutive patients treated with 150 mg of tissue plasminogen activator over six to eight hours for acute myocardial infarction. All patients also underwent immediate cardiac catheterization. Results: Quantitation of blood loss during the patients' hospital stay included a median drop in hematocrit of 11.4 points, a median nadir hematocrit of 31.2, a 14 percent rate of significant clinically evident bleeding, and a 31 percent rate of transfusion of two or more units of blood. All of these parameters were much more severe in patients treated with coronary artery bypass surgery. Access site hematoma was the most common source of bleeding (45 percent of patients), whereas 8 percent had gastrointestinal bleeding, two patients had retroperitoneal bleeding, and two patients had intracranial bleeding. The median nadir fibrinogen was 1.3 g/liter. Multiple linear regression models were used to investigate the relationship between clinical variables, including multiple hematologic measurements, and measures of the amount of blood loss. The use of coronary artery bypass grafting was the variable most closely associated with hemorrhage. Other invasive procedures (angioplasty and intra-aortic balloon pumping) were also associated with increased bleeding. Among the patient descriptors examined, lighter weight, older age, female sex, and history of hypertension were associated with greater blood loss. Of laboratory coagulation parameters, only nadir fibrinogen levels were significantly associated with more bleeding. Conclusion: Careful clinical evaluation may improve assessment of the risk/benefit ratio of thrombolytic therapy.
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