Blood-diluting drugs linked to fatal bleeding in the brain

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2005, 12:00am

Stroke patients taking anticoagulants to treat high blood pressure and heart irregularities risk potentially fatal bleeding in the brain, doctors have warned.

A study found that stroke patients taking the blood-diluting medicine are eight times as likely as those who do not use it to develop micro-bleeding, which can lead to an intra-cerebral haemorrhage.

Intra-cerebral haemorrhage - one of the main types of stroke, which is caused when a diseased blood vessel in the brain bursts - has a death rate of 30 per cent.

This compares with 10 per cent for ischaemic stroke, another common kind, which is caused by a blood clot in the brain.

Of 996 stroke patients in the Chinese University survey, 282 suffered from micro-bleeding, or bleeding from damaged capillaries.

'Micro-bleed indicates a long-term destruction of blood vessels,' said Yannie Soo Oi-yan, honorary clinical tutor in the university's department of medicine and therapeutics. 'Stroke patients taking anticoagulants will increase the burden on their blood vessels.'

She believed that fewer than 20 per cent of stroke patients in Hong Kong took anticoagulants.

Dr Soo suggested that such patients should make efforts to keep their blood pressure under control by other means.

She recommended that stroke patients ensure they eat a balanced diet, undertake regular aerobic exercise three times a week and have regular check-ups to avoid a recurrence.

'If it's necessary for stroke patients to take anticoagulants, we'll make sure they take an appropriate amount of the medicine and have a regular blood test,' Dr Soo said.

Research conducted by the university between January 1999 and October last year found that micro-bleeds could be detected only with scans by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and not by computed tomography - a common scan that many stroke patients choose to take. Dr Soo recommended stroke patients undergo MRI tests if possible.

The test costs $3,500 to $4,500 at the university or general private hospitals.