FPIN's Clinical Inquiries

Bridging Warfarin Before Colonoscopy in Patients with Atrial Fibrillation


Am Fam Physician. 2019 Apr 15;99(8):519-524.

Clinical Question

Is bridging warfarin (Coumadin) before screening colonoscopy in patients with atrial fibrillation beneficial for reducing the risk of stroke?

Evidence-Based Answer

A limited number of trials that examined the risk of temporary interruption of anticoagulation before a variety of procedures did not find a reduction in the risk of stroke, but they did show an increased risk of bleeding events and venous thromboembolism (VTE) in patients who were bridged during warfarin interruption. (Strength of Recommendation [SOR]: B, based on a meta-analysis of observational studies and observational trials.) Consensus guidelines recommend bridging based on individual patient risk of VTE. (SOR: C, based on a consensus guideline.)

Evidence Summary

A 2016 meta-analysis investigated the risks and benefits of bridging with low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) or unfractionated heparin during temporary interruption of warfarin therapy in 13,810 patients with atrial fibrillation (mean age: 71 to 75 years).1 The meta-analysis included one randomized controlled trial (RCT), one subanalysis of an RCT, and four observational studies that followed patients for a minimum of 30 days. Four studies (N = 8,420) found no significant difference in rates of cerebrovascular accidents with bridging vs. without bridging for a variety of procedures ranging from minor (e.g., dental or cataract surgery) to moderate and major (e.g., percutaneous coronary intervention, abdominal or cardiac surgery). The duration of bridging was not consistently reported. One of the trials reported that time to achieve a postprocedure therapeutic international normalized ratio was eight days (plus or minus four days). The meta-analysis found no difference in the risk of VTE (five trials; N = 10,700) or overall mortality (five trials; N = 12,313). However, five trials (N = 10,700) found a decreased risk of major bleeding (odds ratio [OR] = 0.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.24 to 0.68) and any bleeding (OR = 0.44; 95%

Address correspondence to Corey Lyon, DO, at corey.lyon@ucdenver.edu. Reprints are not available from the authors.

Author disclosure: No relevant financial affiliations.


show all references

1. Ayoub K, Nairooz R, Almomani A, Marji M, Paydak H, Maskoun W. Perioperative heparin bridging in atrial fibrillation patients requiring temporary interruption of anticoagulation: evidence from meta-analysis. J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2016;25(9):2215–2221....

2. Sjögren V, Grzymala-Lubanski B, Renlund H, Svensson PJ, Själander A. Safety and efficacy of bridging with low-molecular-weight heparin during temporary interruptions of warfarin: a register-based cohort study. Clin Appl Thomb Hemost. 2017;23(8):961–966.

3. Jaruvongvanich V, Assavapongpaiboon B, Wijarnpreecha K, Ungprasert P. Heparin-bridging therapy and risk of post-polypectomy bleeding: meta-analysis of data reported by Japanese colonoscopists. Dig Endosc. 2017;29(7):743–748.

4. Doherty JU, Gluckman TJ, Hucker WJ, et al. 2017 ACC expert consensus decision pathway for periprocedural management of anticoagulation in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation: a report of the American College of Cardiology Clinical Expert Consensus Document Task Force. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2017;69(7):871–898.

Clinical Inquiries provides answers to questions submitted by practicing family physicians to the Family Physicians Inquiries Network (FPIN). Members of the network select questions based on their relevance to family medicine. Answers are drawn from an approved set of evidence-based resources and undergo peer review. The strength of recommendations and the level of evidence for individual studies are rated using criteria developed by the Evidence-Based Medicine Working Group (http://www.cebm.net).

The complete database of evidence-based questions and answers is copyrighted by FPIN. If interested in submitting questions or writing answers for this series, go to http://www.fpin.org or e-mail: questions@fpin.org.

This series is coordinated by John E. Delzell Jr., MD, MSPH, Associate Medical Editor.

A collection of FPIN's Clinical Inquiries published in AFP is available at https://www.aafp.org/afp/fpin.



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