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Aspirin, a drug that has been easing pain and even saving lives for more than a hundred years, gets very little respect. Perhaps because it is so old or maybe because it is available over the counter, people don’t tend to take it seriously. But we should. It turns out that people ought to take great care if they decide to stop taking aspirin.

What Could Happen If You Stop Taking Aspirin?

Q. I read your column about a woman who stopped aspirin and had a heart attack. Almost thirty years ago I started taking aspirin.

In December, 2015, I was getting ready to have shoulder replacement surgery. There were a lot of scans and tests to be sure everything looked good before the surgery. They ALL checked out fine. A week before the surgery, I had to stop taking my aspirin, omega-3 fish oil and OTC supplements.

Two days before the surgery, I woke up fuzzy. As it turned out, I’d had a blood clot go to my brain and cause a mild stroke. After three months of heart monitoring and tests, the neurology doctors said it was rare, but they think going off aspirin caused the blood to clot and stop up a small artery.

Serious Consequences for People Who Stop Taking Aspirin:

A. Swedish researchers reported that patients who stop low-dose aspirin appear to be more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke (Sundstrom et al, Circulation, online, Sept. 25, 2017). They hypothesized that this may be a rebound blood-clotting effect.

This new information poses a dilemma for surgeons. They often advise patients to stop taking aspirin prior to surgery to prevent excessive bleeding. This new information may call for a re-evaluation of the protocol. Unfortunately, we do not have any studies to show us the safest way to stop taking aspirin.

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