Age-specific risks, severity, time course, and outcome of bleeding on long-term antiplatelet treatment after vascular events: a population-based cohort study


Lifelong antiplatelet treatment is recommended after ischaemic vascular events, on the basis of trials done mainly in patients younger than 75 years. Upper gastrointestinal bleeding is a serious complication, but had low case fatality in trials of aspirin and is not generally thought to cause long-term disability. Consequently, although co-prescription of proton-pump inhibitors (PPIs) reduces upper gastrointestinal bleeds by 70–90%, uptake is low and guidelines are conflicting. We aimed to assess the risk, time course, and outcomes of bleeding on antiplatelet treatment for secondary prevention in patients of all ages.


We did a prospective population-based cohort study in patients with a first transient ischaemic attack, ischaemic stroke, or myocardial infarction treated with antiplatelet drugs (mainly aspirin based, without routine PPI use) after the event in the Oxford Vascular Study from 2002 to 2012, with follow-up until 2013. We determined type, severity, outcome (disability or death), and time course of bleeding requiring medical attention by face-to-face follow-up for 10 years. We estimated age-specific numbers needed to treat (NNT) to prevent upper gastrointestinal bleeding with routine PPI co-prescription on the basis of Kaplan–Meier risk estimates and relative risk reduction estimates from previous trials.


3166 patients (1582 [50%] aged ≥75 years) had 405 first bleeding events (n=218 gastrointestinal, n=45 intracranial, and n=142 other) during 13 509 patient-years of follow-up. Of the 314 patients (78%) with bleeds admitted to hospital, 117 (37%) were missed by administrative coding. Risk of non-major bleeding was unrelated to age, but major bleeding increased steeply with age (≥75 years hazard ratio [HR] 3·10, 95% CI 2·27–4·24; p<0·0001), particularly for fatal bleeds (5·53, 2·65–11·54; p<0·0001), and was sustained during long-term follow-up. The same was true of major upper gastrointestinal bleeds (≥75 years HR 4·13, 2·60–6·57; p<0·0001), particularly if disabling or fatal (10·26, 4·37–24·13; p<0·0001). At age 75 years or older, major upper gastrointestinal bleeds were mostly disabling or fatal (45 [62%] of 73 patients vs 101 [47%] of 213 patients with recurrent ischaemic stroke), and outnumbered disabling or fatal intracerebral haemorrhage (n=45 vs n=18), with an absolute risk of 9·15 (95% CI 6·67–12·24) per 1000 patient-years. The estimated NNT for routine PPI use to prevent one disabling or fatal upper gastrointestinal bleed over 5 years fell from 338 for individuals younger than 65 years, to 25 for individuals aged 85 years or older.


In patients receiving aspirin-based antiplatelet treatment without routine PPI use, the long-term risk of major bleeding is higher and more sustained in older patients in practice than in the younger patients in previous trials, with a substantial risk of disabling or fatal upper gastrointestinal bleeding. Given that half of the major bleeds in patients aged 75 years or older were upper gastrointestinal, the estimated NNT for routine PPI use to prevent such bleeds is low, and co-prescription should be encouraged.


Wellcome Trust, Wolfson Foundation, British Heart Foundation, Dunhill Medical Trust, National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), and the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.

Antidepressants during pregnancy and autism in offspring: population based cohort study

Objectives To study the association between maternal use of antidepressants during pregnancy and autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in offspring.

Design Observational prospective cohort study with regression methods, propensity score matching, sibling controls, and negative control comparison.

Setting Stockholm County, Sweden.

Participants 254 610 individuals aged 4-17, including 5378 with autism, living in Stockholm County in 2001-11 who were born to mothers who did not take antidepressants and did not have any psychiatric disorder, mothers who took antidepressants during pregnancy, or mothers with psychiatric disorders who did not take antidepressants during pregnancy. Maternal antidepressant use was recorded during first antenatal interview or determined from prescription records.

Main outcome measure Offspring diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, with and without intellectual disability.

Results Of the 3342 children exposed to antidepressants during pregnancy, 4.1% (n=136) had a diagnosis of autism compared with a 2.9% prevalence (n=353) in 12 325 children not exposed to antidepressants whose mothers had a history of a psychiatric disorder (adjusted odds ratio 1.45, 95% confidence interval 1.13 to 1.85). Propensity score analysis led to similar results. The results of a sibling control analysis were in the same direction, although with wider confidence intervals. In a negative control comparison, there was no evidence of any increased risk of autism in children whose fathers were prescribed antidepressants during the mothers’ pregnancy (1.13, 0.68 to 1.88). In all analyses, the risk increase concerned only autism without intellectual disability.

Conclusions The association between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism, particularly autism without intellectual disability, might not solely be a byproduct of confounding. Study of the potential underlying biological mechanisms could help the understanding of modifiable mechanisms in the aetiology of autism. Importantly, the absolute risk of autism was small, and, hypothetically, if no pregnant women took antidepressants, the number of cases that could potentially be prevented would be small.

Reference: BMJ 2017;358:j2811

Risk of post-pregnancy hypertension in women with a history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: nationwide cohort study

Objectives To determine how soon after delivery the risk of post-pregnancy hypertension increases in women with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and how the risk evolves over time.

Design Nationwide register based cohort study.

Setting Denmark.

Populations 482 972 primiparous women with a first live birth or stillbirth between 1995 and 2012 (cumulative incidence analyses), and 1 025 118 women with at least one live birth or stillbirth between 1978 and 2012 (Cox regression analyses).

Main outcome measures 10 year cumulative incidences of post-pregnancy hypertension requiring treatment with prescription drugs, and hazard ratios estimated using Cox regression.

Results Of women with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy in a first pregnancy in their 20s, 14% developed hypertension in the first decade post partum, compared with 4% of women with normotensive first pregnancies in their 20s. The corresponding percentages for women with a first pregnancy in their 40s were 32% and 11%, respectively. In the year after delivery, women with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy had 12-fold to 25-fold higher rates of hypertension than did women with a normotensive pregnancy. Rates in women with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy were threefold to 10-fold higher 1-10 years post partum and remained twice as high even 20 or more years later.

Conclusions The risk of hypertension associated with hypertensive disorders of pregnancy is high immediately after an affected pregnancy and persists for more than 20 years. Up to one third of women with a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy may develop hypertension within a decade of an affected pregnancy, indicating that cardiovascular disease prevention in these women should include blood pressure monitoring initiated soon after pregnancy.

Reference: BMJ 2017;358:j3078

Lifestyle in progression from hypertensive disorders of pregnancy to chronic hypertension in Nurses’ Health Study II: observational cohort study

Objectives To study the association between lifestyle risk factors and chronic hypertension by history of hypertensive disorders of pregnancy (HDP: gestational hypertension and pre-eclampsia) and investigate the extent to which these risk factors modify the association between HDP and chronic hypertension.

Design Prospective cohort study.

Setting Nurses’ Health Study II (1991-2013).

Participants 54 588 parous women aged 32 to 59 years with data on reproductive history and without previous chronic hypertension, stroke, or myocardial infarction.

Main outcome measure Chronic hypertension diagnosed by a physician and indicated through nurse participant self report. Multivariable Cox proportional hazards models were used to investigate the development of chronic hypertension contingent on history of HDP and four lifestyle risk factors: post-pregnancy body mass index, physical activity, adherence to the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, and dietary sodium/potassium intake. Potential effect modification (interaction) between each lifestyle factor and previous HDP was evaluated with the relative excess risk due to interaction.

Results 10% (n=5520) of women had a history of HDP at baseline. 13 971 cases of chronic hypertension occurred during 689 988 person years of follow-up. Being overweight or obese was the only lifestyle factor consistently associated with higher risk of chronic hypertension. Higher body mass index, in particular, also increased the risk of chronic hypertension associated with history of HDP (relative excess risk due to interaction P<0.01 for all age strata). For example, in women aged 40-49 years with previous HDP and obesity class I (body mass index 30.0-34.9), 25% (95% confidence interval 12% to 37%) of the risk of chronic hypertension was attributable to a potential effect of obesity that was specific to women with previous HDP. There was no clear evidence of effect modification by physical activity, DASH diet, or sodium/potassium intake on the association between HDP and chronic hypertension.

Conclusion This study suggests that the risk of chronic hypertension after HDP might be markedly reduced by adherence to a beneficial lifestyle. Compared with women without a history of HDP, keeping a healthy weight seems to be especially important with such a history.

Reference:  BMJ 2017;358:j3024

High-Intensity Statins Guideline Expectations and Clinical Application

There have been major advances in the understanding and management of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD). Central to these was the discovery of the role of cholesterol-containing lipoprotein particles in the atherosclerotic process and the development of lipid-lowering agents, particularly statins. Despite substantial and consistent evidence to support a causal link between statin use and prevention of ASCVD events, there is still debate regarding the appropriate administration of statins, particularly with regard to primary prevention.

Reference: JAMA. 2017;317(24):2543-2544.

Benzodiazepines and risk of all cause mortality in adults: cohort study

Objectives To evaluate the risk of all cause mortality associated with initiating compared with not initiating benzodiazepines in adults, and to address potential treatment barriers and confounding related to the use of a non-active comparator group.

Design Retrospective cohort study.

Setting Large de-identified US commercial healthcare database (Optum Clinformatics Datamart).

Participants 1:1 high dimensional propensity score matched cohort of benzodiazepine initiators, and randomly selected benzodiazepine non-initiators with a medical visit within 14 days of the start of benzodiazepine treatment (n=1 252 988), between July 2004 and December 2013. To address treatment barriers and confounding, patients were required to have filled one or more prescriptions for any medication in the 90 days and 91-180 days before the index date (ie, the date of starting benzodiazepine treatment for initiators and the date of the selected medical visit for benzodiazepine non-initiators) and the high dimensional propensity score was estimated on the basis of more than 300 covariates.

Main outcome measure All cause mortality, determined by linkage with the Social Security Administration Death Master File.

Results Over a six month follow-up period, 5061 and 4691 deaths occurred among high dimensional propensity score matched benzodiazepine initiators versus non-initiators (9.3 v 9.4 events per 1000 person years; hazard ratio 1.00, 95% confidence interval 0.96 to 1.04). A 4% (95% confidence interval 1% to 8%) to 9% (2% to 7%) increase in mortality risk was observed associated with the start of benzodiazepine treatment for follow-ups of 12 and 48 months and in subgroups of younger patients and patients initiating short acting agents. In secondary analyses comparing 1:1 high dimensional propensity score matched patients initiating benzodiazepines with an active comparator, ie, patients starting treatment with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor antidepressants, benzodiazepine use was associated with a 9% (95% confidence interval 3% to 16%) increased risk.

Conclusions This large population based cohort study suggests either no increase or at most a minor increase in risk of all cause mortality associated with benzodiazepine initiation. If a detrimental effect exists, it is likely to be much smaller than previously stated and to have uncertain clinical relevance. Residual confounding likely explains at least part of the small increase in mortality risk observed in selected analyses.

 Reference: BMJ 2017;358:j2941

Physical activity, cognitive decline, and risk of dementia: 28 year follow-up of Whitehall II cohort study

Objective To test the hypotheses that physical activity in midlife is not associated with a reduced risk of dementia and that the preclinical phase of dementia is characterised by a decline in physical activity.

Design Prospective cohort study with a mean follow-up of 27 years.

Setting Civil service departments in London (Whitehall II study).

Participants 10 308 participants aged 35-55 years at study inception (1985-88). Exposures included time spent in mild, moderate to vigorous, and total physical activity assessed seven times between 1985 and 2013 and categorised as “recommended” if duration of moderate to vigorous physical activity was 2.5 hours/week or more.

Main outcome measures A battery of cognitive tests was administered up to four times from 1997 to 2013, and incident dementia cases (n=329) were identified through linkage to hospital, mental health services, and mortality registers until 2015.

Results Mixed effects models showed no association between physical activity and subsequent 15 year cognitive decline. Similarly, Cox regression showed no association between physical activity and risk of dementia over an average 27 year follow-up (hazard ratio in the “recommended” physical activity category 1.00, 95% confidence interval 0.80 to 1.24). For trajectories of hours/week of total, mild, and moderate to vigorous physical activity in people with dementia compared with those without dementia (all others), no differences were observed between 28 and 10 years before diagnosis of dementia. However, physical activity in people with dementia began to decline up to nine years before diagnosis (difference in moderate to vigorous physical activity −0.39 hours/week; P=0.05), and the difference became more pronounced (−1.03 hours/week; P=0.005) at diagnosis.

Conclusion This study found no evidence of a neuroprotective effect of physical activity. Previous findings showing a lower risk of dementia in physically active people may be attributable to reverse causation—that is, due to a decline in physical activity levels in the preclinical phase of dementia.

Reference: BMJ 2017;357:j2709