Conference Coverage

Hold blood thinners during thyroid nodule biopsy?


AT ATA 2023

– The routine practice of holding use of blood-thinning medications at the time of an ultrasound-guided thyroid nodule fine needle aspiration (FNA) biopsy shows no significant safety benefit in preventing the risk of complications such as hematomas or nondiagnostic results; however, experts suggest using individualized decision-making with the practice.

“Our data indicates that there is no need to routinely hold anticoagulation or antiplatelet therapy prior to thyroid nodule FNA biopsy,” first author Michelle Lundholm, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic said in an interview.

“[The practice] impacts neither the safety of the FNA procedure nor the adequacy of the sample,” she said.

The late-breaking research was presented at the annual meeting of the American Thyroid Association.

Key concerns in the use of anticoagulants and/or antiplatelet medications during thyroid nodule FNA biopsy include the increased risk of postprocedural hematoma or nondiagnostic results, with, for instance, one study showing higher rates of nondiagnostic results among patients remaining on aspirin therapy during the FNA biopsy.

However, holding the medically indicated therapies can have risks of its own, including concerns of thrombotic events such as deep vein thrombosis or stroke. However, evidence comparing the risks with each strategy in thyroid nodule FNA is lacking.

To investigate, Dr. Lundholm and colleagues conducted a review of data on 2,945 patients who had undergone a total of 4,741 thyroid nodule FNAs in the Cleveland Clinic’s diverse network of centers between 2010 and 2023. The patients had a mean age of 66.2; 69.6% were female and 75.7% were White.

All patients had an active prescription for an anticoagulant or antiplatelet medication up to 10 days prior to their thyroid nodule FNA biopsy. Specifically, 73.7% were on 81 mg aspirin, 8.5% were on 325 mg aspirin, 7.4% were taking other antiplatelet medication such as clopidogrel or ticagrelor; 7.0% were on warfarin, 8.2% were on a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC); 6.3% were on heparin products; and 10.3% of patients were on two or more blood-thinning medications.

The results show that, overall, 13.0% (n =  614) of the thyroid nodule FNA biopsies had nondiagnostic results, which is within the average rates in the literature ranging from 6% to 36%, Dr. Lundholm noted.

Blood-thinning medications were held in 20.8% of the FNA biopsies, however, there were no differences in nondiagnostic results between those who had drugs held (12.2%) or who continued on the medications (13.2%; P  = .41).

After multivariate adjustment for age and sex, the lack of significant differences in receiving nondiagnostic results among those who did or did not continue blood thinners was consistent overall (odds ratio, 1.10; P = .38), and in the specific groups of 81 mg aspirin (OR, 1.00; P = .99); 325 mg aspirin or clopidogrel/ticagrelor (OR, 1.50; P = .15); or warfarin, DOAC, or heparin/enoxaparin (OR, 1.27; P = .27).

In terms of hematoma risk, ED records within 48 hours of the FNA showed that such events were rare, with only one hematoma occurring overall, involving a patient who was on 81 mg of aspirin for secondary stroke prevention that was not interrupted for FNA biopsy. The patient was discharged and did not require medical intervention.

Four other hematomas occurred among patients who were not being treated with blood thinners, with none requiring intervention.

The findings indicate that “hematoma can happen in any patient, but rarely requires intervention,” Dr. Lundholm said.

However, while thrombotic events were also rare, serious events occurred in three patients within 48 hours of the thyroid nodule FNA biopsy when a blood thinner was withheld, including ischemic strokes among two patients who were on a DOAC and 81 mg of aspirin that were withheld, and one MI occurring in a patient on a DOAC that was held for the FNA.

Unlike hematomas, the thrombotic events each had significant long‐term sequelae, Dr. Lundholm noted.

“Having these ischemic strokes and heart attack really led to a change in these patients’ lives,” she said. “While we can never assume that [the events occurred] because the blood-thinner therapy was held, the timing within 48 hours is certainly very suspicious.”

There were no deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism events.


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