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Self-monitoring or self-management of anticoagulation therapy can help reduce thromboembolic events.

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...the evidence clearly demonstrates that self-monitoring can improve the quality of oral anti-coagulation therapy and adds weight to the argument that more patients should be given the opportunity to benefit from this treatment approach.
- Professor Carl Heneghan, Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford

Patients on long-term anticoagulation therapy who test their own blood-clotting time from home and continue to be managed by their GP are significantly less likely to experience a thromboembolic event, according to Oxford University researchers.

Point-of-care testing has now made it possible for people on long-term oral anticoagulation therapy to monitor their own blood clotting time, which is measured as the international normalised ratio (INR). Patients can either adjust their own medication according to a pre-determined dose-INR schedule (self-management), or they can call into a clinic to be told the appropriate dose adjustment (self-monitoring).

In their Cochrane systematic review, the researchers describe data from 28 randomised trials of 8,950 participants done in eleven different countries that compare self-monitoring and self-management with standard monitoring.

The results from 18 trials which measured thromboembolic events showed almost a halving of thromboembolic events with self-monitoring and self-management in comparison to standard monitoring.  The review also found reduced mortality in trials of patients who self-managed, but not in those who self-monitored, and no effect on major haemorrhage. However, data from recent studies show a beneficial effect of self-monitoring.

Lead author Professor Carl Heneghan, Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, said:

“There are more than 1.2 million people in the UK on warfarin therapy, of whom fewer than 2 per cent self-monitor their INR levels despite mounting evidence that self-monitoring alone can cut the risk of death by nearly two fifths and more than halve the risk of strokes.

“Our review of the latest research finds that self-monitoring alone does indeed result in a statistically significant reduction in thromboembolic events, whereas our previous review did not find this effect.

“Suitable patients still need to be identified and educated for self-monitoring as it is not feasible for everyone, but the evidence clearly demonstrates that self-monitoring can improve the quality of oral anti-coagulation therapy and adds weight to the argument that more patients should be given the opportunity to benefit from this treatment approach.”

The review is an update on a previous review carried out by the same researchers in 2010. It includes 10 new studies of 4,227 participants which substantially strengthened the available evidence.

The authors conclude that future studies should set out to understand why people decide to use self-management (or not) and identify ways to improve its uptake and effectiveness.

The research is published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Self-monitoring and self-management of oral anticoagulation
Heneghan CH, Garcia-Alamino JM, Spencer EA, Ward AM, Perera R, Bankhead C, Alonso-Coello P, Fitzmaurice D, Mahtani KR, Onakpoya IJ.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 7. Art. No: CD003839 DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003839.pub3 

Notes to Editors

For media enquiries contact Dan Richards-Doran, Communications Manager, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences 01865 617870

The authors received financial support from the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme. The work was partially funded by the Instituto de Salud Carlos III, co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (PI07/90406).

Oxford University’s Medical Sciences Division is one of the largest biomedical research centres in Europe, with over 2,500 people involved in research and more than 2,800 students. The University is rated the best in the world for medicine and life sciences, and it is home to the UK’s top-ranked medical school. It has one of the largest clinical trial portfolios in the UK and great expertise in taking discoveries from the lab into the clinic. Partnerships with the local NHS Trusts enable patients to benefit from close links between medical research and healthcare delivery.

Within the division, the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences undertakes internationally acclaimed teaching and research that improves the primary care that GP practices deliver, and is ranked top in the UK. The department’s research covers a broad range of primary care issues including cardiovascular and metabolic disease, health behaviours, infectious disease and child health, patient experience, research methods and evidence-based medicine.

About the National Institute for Health Research
The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is funded by the Department of Health to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. Since its establishment in April 2006, the NIHR has transformed research in the NHS. It has increased the volume of applied health research for the benefit of patients and the public, driven faster translation of basic science discoveries into tangible benefits for patients and the economy, and developed and supported the people who conduct and contribute to applied health research. The NIHR plays a key role in the Government’s strategy for economic growth, attracting investment by the life-sciences industries through its world-class infrastructure for health research. Together, the NIHR people, programmes, centres of excellence and systems represent the most integrated health research system in the world. For further information, visit the NIHR website (

This article presents independent research funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR or the Department of Health.


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