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Safe to Use Blood Thinner Before Major Cancer Surgery, Study Finds

Results led Sloan Kettering to change pre-op practices

TUESDAY, Dec. 29, 2015 (HealthDay News)-- Blood-thinning drugs can safely be given to certain patients before major cancer surgery, a new study suggests.

Operations increase risk for blood clots in the legs, which can dislodge and travel to the lungs, a potentially fatal complication called pulmonary embolism.

Blood thinners such as heparin are commonly given to patients after surgery, but there is little data on their safety and effectiveness when administered before major cancer operations, say researchers from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Based on the results, published online recently in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons, the New York City cancer center has begun giving blood thinners to certain patients before major cancer surgery.

"This research has been a practice-changing study for our institution," study co-author Dr. Vivian Strong, an associate attending surgeon, said in a journal news release.

"Our study results demonstrate to other institutions that you can use preoperative [blood thinners] safely, so I think that it has very broad-reaching, practice-changing implications," she added.

In this study, researchers compared more than 2,000 patients given blood thinners before major cancer surgery with nearly 5,000 who did not receive blood thinners before major surgery.

The results showed that one dose of blood-thinning medication before surgery reduced the risk of blood clots and did not increase the risk of major bleeding or blood transfusion, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about pulmonary embolism.

SOURCE: Journal of the American College of Surgeons, news release, Dec. 15, 2015

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