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.

Prolonged dual antiplatelet therapy in stable coronary disease: comparative observational study of benefits and harms in unselected versus trial populations

Objective To estimate the potential magnitude in unselected patients of the benefits and harms of prolonged dual antiplatelet therapy after acute myocardial infarction seen in selected patients with high risk characteristics in trials.

Design Observational population based cohort study.

Setting PEGASUS-TIMI-54 trial population and CALIBER (ClinicAl research using LInked Bespoke studies and Electronic health Records).

Participants 7238 patients who survived a year or more after acute myocardial infarction.

Interventions Prolonged dual antiplatelet therapy after acute myocardial infarction.

Main outcome measures Recurrent acute myocardial infarction, stroke, or fatal cardiovascular disease. Fatal, severe, or intracranial bleeding.

Results 1676/7238 (23.1%) patients met trial inclusion and exclusion criteria (“target” population). Compared with the placebo arm in the trial population, in the target population the median age was 12 years higher, there were more women (48.6% v 24.3%), and there was a substantially higher cumulative three year risk of both the primary (benefit) trial endpoint of recurrent acute myocardial infarction, stroke, or fatal cardiovascular disease (18.8% (95% confidence interval 16.3% to 21.8%) v 9.04%) and the primary (harm) endpoint of fatal, severe, or intracranial bleeding (3.0% (2.0% to 4.4%) v 1.26% (TIMI major bleeding)). Application of intention to treat relative risks from the trial (ticagrelor 60 mg daily arm) to CALIBER’s target population showed an estimated 101 (95% confidence interval 87 to 117) ischaemic events prevented per 10 000 treated per year and an estimated 75 (50 to 110) excess fatal, severe, or intracranial bleeds caused per 10 000 patients treated per year. Generalisation from CALIBER’s target subgroup to all 7238 real world patients who were stable at least one year after acute myocardial infarction showed similar three year risks of ischaemic events (17.2%, 16.0% to 18.5%), with an estimated 92 (86 to 99) events prevented per 10 000 patients treated per year, and similar three year risks of bleeding events (2.3%, 1.8% to 2.9%), with an estimated 58 (45 to 73) events caused per 10 000 patients treated per year.

Conclusions This novel use of primary-secondary care linked electronic health records allows characterisation of “healthy trial participant” effects and confirms the potential absolute benefits and harms of dual antiplatelet therapy in representative patients a year or more after acute myocardial infarction.

BMJ 2016;353:i3163

Development and Validation of a Prediction Rule for Benefit and Harm of Dual Antiplatelet Therapy Beyond 1 Year After Percutaneous Coronary Intervention

Importance  Dual antiplatelet therapy after percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) reduces ischemia but increases bleeding.

Objective  To develop a clinical decision tool to identify patients expected to derive benefit vs harm from continuing thienopyridine beyond 1 year after PCI.

Design, Setting, and Participants  Among 11 648 randomized DAPT Study patients from 11 countries (August 2009-May 2014), a prediction rule was derived stratifying patients into groups to distinguish ischemic and bleeding risk 12 to 30 months after PCI. Validation was internal via bootstrap resampling and external among 8136 patients from 36 countries randomized in the PROTECT trial (June 2007-July 2014).

Exposures  Twelve months of open-label thienopyridine plus aspirin, then randomized to 18 months of continued thienopyridine plus aspirin vs placebo plus aspirin.

Main Outcomes and Measures  Ischemia (myocardial infarction or stent thrombosis) and bleeding (moderate or severe) 12 to 30 months after PCI.

Results  Among DAPT Study patients (derivation cohort; mean age, 61.3 years; women, 25.1%), ischemia occurred in 348 patients (3.0%) and bleeding in 215 (1.8%). Derivation cohort models predicting ischemia and bleeding had c statistics of 0.70 and 0.68, respectively. The prediction rule assigned 1 point each for myocardial infarction at presentation, prior myocardial infarction or PCI, diabetes, stent diameter less than 3 mm, smoking, and paclitaxel-eluting stent; 2 points each for history of congestive heart failure/low ejection fraction and vein graft intervention; −1 point for age 65 to younger than 75 years; and −2 points for age 75 years or older. Among the high score group (score ≥2, n = 5917), continued thienopyridine vs placebo was associated with reduced ischemic events (2.7% vs 5.7%; risk difference [RD], −3.0% [95% CI, −4.1% to −2.0%], P < .001) compared with the low score group (score <2, n = 5731; 1.7% vs 2.3%; RD, −0.7% [95% CI, −1.4% to 0.09%], P = .07; interaction P < .001). Conversely, continued thienopyridine was associated with smaller increases in bleeding among the high score group (1.8% vs 1.4%; RD, 0.4% [95% CI, −0.3% to 1.0%], P = .26) compared with the low score group (3.0% vs 1.4%; RD, 1.5% [95% CI, 0.8% to 2.3%], P < .001; interaction P = .02). Among PROTECT patients (validation cohort; mean age, 62 years; women, 23.7%), ischemia occurred in 79 patients (1.0%) and bleeding in 37 (0.5%), with a c statistic of 0.64 for ischemia and 0.64 for bleeding. In this cohort, the high-score patients (n = 2848) had increased ischemic events compared with the low-score patients and no significant difference in bleeding.

Conclusion and Relevance  Among patients not sustaining major bleeding or ischemic events 1 year after PCI, a prediction rule assessing late ischemic and bleeding risks to inform dual antiplatelet therapy duration showed modest accuracy in derivation and validation cohorts. This rule requires further prospective evaluation to assess potential effects on patient care, as well as validation in other cohorts.

JAMA. 2016;315(16):1735-1749. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.3775.