Head injury protocol reduces death rate for patients on blood thinners

Blood thinners, like heparin, are routinely administered or prescribed to patients to help prevent blot clots that can lead to heart attacks or strokes. But if a patient taking blood thinners bumps his head, he is at greater risk for undetected brain bleeds and death, according to Emax Health.

Researchers at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan, have developed a treatment protocol to quickly and effectively diagnose brain bleeds in patients who are on blood thinners and bump their heads. The study treated 105 patients under the new protocol. As a result, diagnosis of brain bleeds occurred in half the time and treatments were started faster. Under this new system, death rate also was reduced from 40 percent to 11 percent.

The protocol includes rapid initial evaluation by a doctor or nurse, a CT scan performed on a priority basis, a blood transfusion and administration of vitamin K to help the blood clot, according to the report.

“These seem like relatively simple steps, but when combined they become a powerful force that helps save lives,” Emax Health quoted Greg Howells, M.D., director of Trauma Surgery. When the head bumps occur, many people can appear fine even if the injury is causing the brain to bleed. Previous studies have shown that people on blood thinners are four times more likely to die from a blow to the head than those not on blood thinners.

As a result of the study, more than 40 other hospitals across the country have asked about Beaumont’s treatment protocol for people on blood thinners who bump their heads.