New Study Shows Safety in Taking Blood Thinners Before Eye Surgery

Print icon

Up until recently, doctors had no idea if people who needed eye surgery but were on blood thinners could continue taking their medication safely prior to their procedure. Many patients receive a nerve block on their eye and it was unclear if patients needed to stop taking them before receiving the nerve block.

But thanks to a new study led by anesthesiologists at Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center, patients should feel reassured that they can safely continue their medications when receiving eye nerve blocks for eye procedures. The study, called the Blocking Eyes with Quality and Safety (BEQUEST) Initiative, examines procedures like cataract and glaucoma surgery, and some cornea procedures

“A lot of our patients are taking blood thinners for serious medical conditions,” said Kevin Finkel, MD, an anesthesiologist at the Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center.

These medications are helpful in preventing heart attacks and strokes, but there hasn’t been much research on the safety of the newer blood thinners and the nerve blocks used in some eye surgeries. This includes medications such as Eliquis (apixaban), Xarelto (rivaroxaban), and Pradaxa (dabigatran etexilate).

“About 40 percent of our patients receive a nerve block anesthetic during their eye surgery, with over 50 percent taking some sort of blood thinner. Based on the findings from our study, we don’t want patients to have to stop taking these important medications simply because they are receiving a block. We want to do the safest thing for our patients,” said Dr. Finkel.

In 2014, Dr. Finkel began collecting data on bleeding complications and the quality of the nerve blocks offered at the Center. Since that time, doctors have collected data on over 11,000 patients.

The data shows that nerve blocks are incredibly safe and done with high-quality. In fact, 90 percent have been deemed “perfect” blocks. This means that there is no movement and no sensation at all felt by the patients in the eye.

The most serious, but rare complication with a nerve block is a retrobulbar hematoma, which is bleeding behind the eye. The typical incidence of this complication nationally is around 1 to 3 percent. In this study, the incidence was 0.018%, nearly 100 times less than the national average.

“The anesthesiologists and surgeons at the Hartford Hospital Eye Surgery Center perform a high volume of nerve blocks, averaging over 1,000 each during the four years of the study,” said Dr. Finkel.

Results from the study were presented at the 44th National Meeting of the American Society of Regional Anesthesia in Las Vegas in April 2019.

Doctors at Hartford Hospital’s Eye Surgery Center perform approximately 3,000 nerve blocks every year. For more information on the Eye Surgery Center, visit





What's New

After Cancer Treatment

How Physical Rehab Can Help Recovery From Lung Cancer      

By Ruth H. Satterberg Occupational Therapist, Certified Lymphedema Therapist Hospital of Central CT Cancer Institute A lung cancer diagnosis can be extremely challenging. Lung cancer, different from breast cancer, often has more complications and challenges to overcome. Evidence shows that physical and occupational therapy can be very helpful at all stages...

Senior man giving wife a kiss

The Long-Term Effects of Cancer Therapy on Your Body

Treatment of lung cancer has developed rapidly in the past 10 years. With earlier detection and improved therapies, patient outcomes have improved significantly. The therapies used for treatment of lung cancer — chemotherapy, radiation and surgery — certainly cause many acute side effects.  But this article will focus on the...

Heat wave and exercise

Having a Heatwave? When Exercising, Know Your Body’s Limits

Brace yourself for a weekend heatwave with temperatures in some Connecticut towns reaching 100 degrees. More ominously, heat-index values that combine temperature and dew point are expected to reach as high as 115. That probably won’t stop the diehard exercisers among us, but experts advise caution during such extreme weather....

Hoarding Study

Institute of Living Study: What Motivates a Hoarder?

To understand hoarding and cultivate a healthy mindset beyond the large-scale purging of piles and boxes of belongings, behavioral health clinicians must first understand what motivates the hoarder. Researchers with the Hartford HealthCare Institute of Living in Hartford will probe that motivation more closely as part of the new study “Emotional...

Insulin Pump and Exercise

Exercise and an Insulin Pump: Here’s How to Do It

How can you exercise with an insulin pump? Healthwise content is included in this report. Hartford Healthcare Rehabilitation Network, a not-for-profit member of Hartford HealthCare, offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology, sports medicine and health & wellness programs.  Please call 860.696.2500 or click here for more information.