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Potentially unintended discontinuation of long-term medication use after elective surgical procedures


Background — Transitions between healthcare settings represent vulnerable periods for medical error. Discontinuation of long-term medication use may occur during discharge from the hospital to the community.

Methods — We performed a population-based, cohort study using administrative records from Ontario, Canada, between April 1, 1997, and September 30, 2002. We studied all residents 66 years and older with continuous use of warfarin, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase inhibitors (statins), or beta-blocker ophthalmic drops for 1 or more years. Those who had an overnight hospitalization for selected elective surgical procedures were compared with 2 control groups: one that had an ambulatory procedure and one that had no procedures. All groups were assessed for the outcome of failure to renew the prescription within 6 months.

Results — Rates of drug treatment discontinuation after overnight hospitalizations, after ambulatory procedures, and after no procedures were 11.4%, 7.5%, and 4.8%, respectively, in the warfarin group; 4.0%, 3.9%, and 3.9%, respectively, in the statin group; and 8.4%, 8.9%, and 7.9%, respectively, in the ophthalmic drops group. The adjusted odds ratio (OR) was 2.6 (95% confidence interval [CI], 2.0-3.4) for discontinuation of warfarin therapy after overnight hospitalizations and 1.6 (95% CI, 1.4-1.7) after ambulatory procedures. In contrast, there was no increased risk of discontinuing treatment with either statins (OR for overnight hospitalization, 1.0 [95% CI, 0.9-1.2]; OR for ambulatory procedure, 1.0 [95% CI 1.0-1.1]) or ophthalmic drops (OR for overnight hospitalization, 1.0 [95% CI, 0.8-1.5]; OR for ambulatory procedure, 1.1 [95% CI, 1.0-1.2]).

Conclusions — Patients prescribed long-term therapy with warfarin were at risk for potentially unintended medication discontinuation after elective procedures. Patients prescribed statins or beta-blocker ophthalmic drops were not at increased risk.



Bell CM, Bajcar J, Bierman AS, Li P, Mamdani MM, Urbach DR. Arch Intern Med. 2006; 166(22):2525-31.

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