Oral anticoagulation is increasingly used in elderly patients with atrial fibrillation to prevent embolic phenomena. The use of anticoagulants in this population is prophylactic rather than therapeutic and so there is no urgency to establish anticoagulation within the desired therapeutic range. The aim of the study was to develop an out-patient regimen for initiation of oral anticoagulation with warfarin which requires only weekly monitoring of the International Normalized Ratio (INR).
The study was undertaken in two phases. In the first phase, factors which predict the final maintenance dosage of warfarin were defined and used to build a decision tree and dosage algorithm. In the second study the algorithm was tested. Patients were given 2 mg warfarin daily for 2 weeks and the INR at this time was used to predict the maintenance dose. Patients then attended for weekly measurements of the INR until steady state had been reached. Dosage adjustments were not made unless the INR was >4.0 or <1.5 for 2 consecutive weeks. The accuracy of the prediction was measured by calculating the mean INR of weeks 6–8 and the number of patients in the target range 2.0–3.0 was determined.
One hundred and seven consecutive out-patients (mean age 70 years range 64–86) completed the first study. The age, sex, height, weight, alcohol intake, number of cigarettes smoked, concomitant medication, clinical evidence of right heart failure, liver failure, abnormalities in liver enzyme estimations, baseline INR and INR after 2 weeks of 2 mg warfarin daily were used in a polytomous logistic regression analysis with stepwise inclusion of factors to determine which factors influenced the eventual maintenance dosage of warfarin. The INR after 2 weeks of 2 mg warfarin therapy predicted 70% of the variability of the maintenance dose. Of other factors only the sex of the patient had a large enough effect to be included in the prediction algorithm. One hundred and six patients (mean age 71 years range 50–85 years) completed the second study. Only one patient needed a dose adjustment in the first 2 weeks of warfarin 2 mg daily (INR 4.4). Overall, 60% patients were in the narrow target range (INR 2.0–3.0) at steady state. In five patients the INR was >4.0 at any visit after the second week and needed dosage adjustment. In four patients the INR was <1.5 at steady state.
We have developed a method of predicting the maintenance dose of warfarin in an elderly population based on the INR after 2 weeks of warfarin 2 mg daily, and the sex of the patient. This is a safe and convenient way of initiating warfarin therapy as an out-patient which requires only weekly INR checks.