brand logo

Am Fam Physician. 2006;73(12):2217

Clinical Question: Do patients monitor and manage their oral anticoagulation at least as well as professionals?

Setting: Outpatient (any)

Study Design: Meta-analysis (randomized controlled trials)

Synopsis: The investigators searched multiple databases for randomized controlled trials comparing self-monitoring of oral anticoagulation with standard monitoring. They also sought ongoing trials and data from equipment manufacturers in an attempt to find unpublished data. Three reviewers independently assessed each study for inclusion, with discrepancies resolved by consensus. Additionally, they assessed each study’s methodologic quality.

Ultimately, the authors identified 14 studies including 1,309 patients. These were generally small studies with an average of 94 patients. In all studies, the self-monitored patients maintained their International Normalized Ratio within the target range at least as well as those with standard monitoring. More importantly, only 2.2 percent of self-monitored patients had thromboembolic events compared with 4.6 percent receiving standard care (number needed to treat = 43; 95% confidence interval, 27 to 92). In the studies that directly measured major hemorrhage and overall death, these outcomes also were significantly better in the self-monitoring groups.

These results should be used with caution because a high proportion of patients (31 to 88 percent) did not enroll or dropped out because of the complexity of self-management.

Bottom Line: Patients who self-monitor oral anticoagulation have fewer thromboembolic events than those using standard approaches to monitoring; however, self-monitoring should be offered only to literate and motivated patients. Additionally, the machines are costly and not universally covered by insurance. (Level of Evidence: 1a)

POEMs (patient-oriented evidence that matters) are provided by Essential Evidence Plus, a point-of-care clinical decision support system published by Wiley-Blackwell. For more information, see Copyright Wiley-Blackwell. Used with permission.

For definitions of levels of evidence used in POEMs, see

To subscribe to a free podcast of these and other POEMs that appear in AFP, search in iTunes for “POEM of the Week” or go to

This series is coordinated by Sumi Sexton, MD, editor-in-chief.

A collection of POEMs published in AFP is available at

Continue Reading

More in AFP

Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP.  See for copyright questions and/or permission requests.