Clinician Article

Self-monitoring and self-management of oral anticoagulation.

  • Heneghan CJ
  • Garcia-Alamino JM
  • Spencer EA
  • Ward AM
  • Perera R
  • Bankhead C, et al.
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016 Jul 5;7(7):CD003839. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003839.pub3. (Review)
PMID: 27378324
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  • Family Medicine (FM)/General Practice (GP)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Internal Medicine
    Relevance - 6/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Hemostasis and Thrombosis
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 5/7
  • Hematology
    Relevance - 5/7
    Newsworthiness - 3/7


BACKGROUND: The introduction of point-of-care devices for the management of patients on oral anticoagulation allows self-testing by the patient at home. Patients who self-test can either adjust their medication according to a pre-determined dose-INR (international normalized ratio) schedule (self-management), or they can call a clinic to be told the appropriate dose adjustment (self-monitoring). Increasing evidence suggests self-testing of oral anticoagulant therapy is equal to or better than standard monitoring. This is an updated version of the original review published in 2010.

OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the effects on thrombotic events, major haemorrhages, and all-cause mortality of self-monitoring or self-management of oral anticoagulant therapy compared to standard monitoring.

SEARCH METHODS: For this review update, we re-ran the searches of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), 2015, Issue 6, the Cochrane Library, MEDLINE (Ovid, 1946 to June week 4 2015), Embase (Ovid, 1980 to 2015 week 27) on 1 July 2015. We checked bibliographies and contacted manufacturers and authors of relevant studies. We did not apply any language restrictions .

SELECTION CRITERIA: Outcomes analysed were thromboembolic events, mortality, major haemorrhage, minor haemorrhage, tests in therapeutic range, frequency of testing, and feasibility of self-monitoring and self-management.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Review authors independently extracted data and we used a fixed-effect model with the Mantzel-Haenzel method to calculate the pooled risk ratio (RR) and Peto's method to verify the results for uncommon outcomes. We examined heterogeneity amongst studies with the Chi(2) and I(2) statistics and used GRADE methodology to assess the quality of evidence.

MAIN RESULTS: We identified 28 randomised trials including 8950 participants (newly incorporated in this update: 10 trials including 4227 participants). The overall quality of the evidence was generally low to moderate. Pooled estimates showed a reduction in thromboembolic events (RR 0.58, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.75; participants = 7594; studies = 18; moderate quality of evidence). Both, trials of self-management or self-monitoring showed reductions in thromboembolic events (RR 0.47, 95% CI 0.31 to 0.70; participants = 3497; studies = 11) and (RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.49 to 0.97; participants = 4097; studies = 7), respectively; the quality of evidence for both interventions was moderate. No reduction in all-cause mortality was found (RR 0.85, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.01; participants = 6358; studies = 11; moderate quality of evidence). While self-management caused a reduction in all-cause mortality (RR 0.55, 95% CI 0.36 to 0.84; participants = 3058; studies = 8); self-monitoring did not (RR 0.94, 95% CI 0.78 to 1.15; participants = 3300; studies = 3); the quality of evidence for both interventions was moderate. In 20 trials (8018 participants) self-monitoring or self-management did not reduce major haemorrhage (RR 0.95, 95% CI, 0.80 to 1.12; moderate quality of evidence). There was no significant difference found for minor haemorrhage (RR 0.97, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.41; participants = 5365; studies = 13). The quality of evidence was graded as low because of serious risk of bias and substantial heterogeneity (I(2) = 82%).

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Participants who self-monitor or self-manage can improve the quality of their oral anticoagulation therapy. Thromboembolic events were reduced, for both those self-monitoring or self-managing oral anticoagulation therapy. A reduction in all-cause mortality was observed in trials of self-management but not in self-monitoring, with no effects on major haemorrhage.

Clinical Comments

General Internal Medicine-Primary Care(US)

In the USA, at least in my neck of the woods, patients do not seem to have access to this method of self-management of anticoagulation. This analysis makes me think that, in the right patient, self-management tools like this one ought to be available.


This is an updated meta-analysis showing that self-monitoring and self-management of warfarin therapy result in lower VTE rates, and the latter results in lower mortality, similar to the previous meta-analysis. Although definitely relevant to those who prescribe warfarin, these data are not new and clinicians should already be knowledgeable about this. The review is only useful to researchers as a single reference.


This is a very effective way to improve outcomes in patients on vitamin K antagonists; but, disappointingly, it`s limited to a small cohort of patients who could use this tool properly.

Hemostasis and Thrombosis

This review confirms the observations in my clinical practice. In general, patients perform well with vitamin K antagonist self-monitoring or self-adjustment. However, only a minority of patients can be candidates for this approach, especially among the elderly. This article will further provide evidence in my consultations.

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