BACKGROUND: Antiplatelet therapy reduces the risk of major vascular events for people with occlusive vascular disease, although it might increase the risk of intracranial haemorrhage. Patients surviving the commonest subtype of intracranial haemorrhage, intracerebral haemorrhage, are at risk of both haemorrhagic and occlusive vascular events, but whether antiplatelet therapy can be used safely is unclear. We aimed to estimate the relative and absolute effects of antiplatelet therapy on recurrent intracerebral haemorrhage and whether this risk might exceed any reduction of occlusive vascular events.
METHODS: The REstart or STop Antithrombotics Randomised Trial (RESTART) was a prospective, randomised, open-label, blinded endpoint, parallel-group trial at 122 hospitals in the UK. We recruited adults (=18 years) who were taking antithrombotic (antiplatelet or anticoagulant) therapy for the prevention of occlusive vascular disease when they developed intracerebral haemorrhage, discontinued antithrombotic therapy, and survived for 24 h. Computerised randomisation incorporating minimisation allocated participants (1:1) to start or avoid antiplatelet therapy. We followed participants for the primary outcome (recurrent symptomatic intracerebral haemorrhage) for up to 5 years. We analysed data from all randomised participants using Cox proportional hazards regression, adjusted for minimisation covariates. This trial is registered with ISRCTN (number ISRCTN71907627).
FINDINGS: Between May 22, 2013, and May 31, 2018, 537 participants were recruited a median of 76 days (IQR 29-146) after intracerebral haemorrhage onset: 268 were assigned to start and 269 (one withdrew) to avoid antiplatelet therapy. Participants were followed for a median of 2·0 years (IQR [1·0- 3·0]; completeness 99·3%). 12 (4%) of 268 participants allocated to antiplatelet therapy had recurrence of intracerebral haemorrhage compared with 23 (9%) of 268 participants allocated to avoid antiplatelet therapy (adjusted hazard ratio 0·51 [95% CI 0·25-1·03]; p=0·060). 18 (7%) participants allocated to antiplatelet therapy experienced major haemorrhagic events compared with 25 (9%) participants allocated to avoid antiplatelet therapy (0·71 [0·39-1·30]; p=0·27), and 39 [15%] participants allocated to antiplatelet therapy had major occlusive vascular events compared with 38 [14%] allocated to avoid antiplatelet therapy (1·02 [0·65-1·60]; p=0·92).
INTERPRETATION: These results exclude all but a very modest increase in the risk of recurrent intracerebral haemorrhage with antiplatelet therapy for patients on antithrombotic therapy for the prevention of occlusive vascular disease when they developed intracerebral haemorrhage. The risk of recurrent intracerebral haemorrhage is probably too small to exceed the established benefits of antiplatelet therapy for secondary prevention.
FUNDING: British Heart Foundation.
This important article suggests that long-term discontinuation of anti-platelet therapy is likely not beneficial for patients who have an intracerebral hemorrhage. Roughly 3/4 of patients were enrolled and restarted at least 30 days after the event, so the study does not speak to the timing of resumption.
This small but prospective and randomized study affirms that after hemorrhagic stroke, AFTER primary hemostasis, antiplatelet therapy avoidance is not protective compared to resumption of antiplatelet. It is however too small and too short in followup to demonstrate the authors’ underlying and alluded assumption that these particular patients will benefit from the antiplatelet resumption (stroke rates will n the short followup interval, median 2 years, were not different between the two groups).