April 25 (UPI) -- Use of a blood thinner after heart failure can protect against future thrombosis, a new study says.
The risk of thromboembolic episodes declined by 17 percent in patients with coronary artery disease, irregular heart rhythms and worsening heart failure who used the drug rivaroxaban, according to findings published in the April issue of JAMA Cardiology.
Rivaroxaban, marketed as Xarelto, is a widely used blood thinner prescribed to patients for treatment and prevention of blood clots, as well as the prevention of health events related to clots.
"We initially wanted to know if we could improve outcomes in patients after an episode of worsening heart failure using a low dose of blood thinner," Barry Greenberg, a researcher at the University of California San Diego and study author, said in a news release. "What we found was that, while this strategy didn't accomplish that goal, it was associated with a significant reduction in the risk of clinically important events that are caused by thrombosis -- stroke, heart attach and sudden cardiac death."
For the study, the researchers gave 2.5 milligrams of rivaroxaban twice a day to patients with worsening heart failure who were discharged from hospitals and clinics after treatment.
Heart failure, or congestive heart failure, happens when the heart muscle stops pumping blood. High blood pressure and coronary artery disease can increase a person's risk for another heart failure event.
About 610,000 American die each year from heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Although there was some increase in bleeding risk with low-dose rivaroxaban, major bleeding, which was the primary safety endpoint of the study, was not significantly increased," Greenberg said. "This is an important observation because currently there is no mandate in place for physicians to prescribe blood thinners to this patient population."