Stopping use of aspirin for patients with a history of bowel bleeding reduces bleeding but raises the risk of serious cardiovascular disease, a Chinese University of Hong Kong study has found.
Francis Chan Ka-leung, dean of CUHK's Faculty of Medicine, said it is the world's first study of its kind that could set a new direction in aspirin use after bowel bleeding.
Aspirin is increasingly used for prevention of coronary artery disease, stroke and colorectal cancer.
Chan said aspirin is an over-the- counter drug, and more people take it as a supplement to prevent diseases.
However, it also comes with the side effect of bleeding from the lower gastrointestinal tract, Chan said.
There is no effective preventive treatment for aspirin-linked bowel bleeding and Chan said doctors are often in a dilemma deciding treatment.
"We know that if we stop aspirin, chances are the patients will be at risk of recurrent heart attack or stroke, or even dying from these serious vascular events," Chan said.
"On the other hand, if we continue aspirin, we may predispose the patient to another episode of bleeding."
Chan's team analyzed data of 295 patients admitted to Prince of Wales Hospital from 2000 to 2007 for aspirin- associated bowel bleeding.
The patients, aged above 70 on average, were put into two groups - one that continued the use of aspirin and those who did not.
The team tracked the cases for five years and results showed the risk for the non-users for recurrent bleeding decreased by 63 percent, but their risk of serious cardiovascular diseases was up by 61 percent.
Chan suggested: "For patients with a history of myocardial infarction, coronary stents or stroke, the benefits of the continuation of aspirin will outweigh its potential bleeding risk despite a history of bowel bleeding."