When initiating warfarin therapy, clinicians should avoid loading doses that can raise the International Normalized Ratio (INR) excessively; instead, warfarin should be initiated with a 5-mg dose (or 2 to 4 mg in the very elderly). With a 5-mg initial dose, the INR will not rise appreciably in the first 24 hours, except in rare patients who will ultimately require a very small daily dose (0.5 to 2.0 mg). Adjusting a steady-state warfarin dose depends on the measured INR values and clinical factors: the dose does not need to be adjusted for a single INR that is slightly out of range, and most changes should alter the total weekly dose by 5% to 20%. The INR should be monitored frequently (eg, 2 to 4 times per week) immediately after initiation of warfarin; subsequently, the interval between INR tests can be lengthened gradually (up to a maximum of 4 to 6 weeks) in patients with stable INR values. Patients who have an elevated INR will need more frequent testing and may also require vitamin K1. For example, a nonbleeding patient with an INR of 9 can be given low-dose vitamin K1 (eg, 2.5 mg phytonadione, by mouth). Patients who have an excessive INR with clinically important bleeding require clotting factors (eg, fresh-frozen plasma) as well as vitamin K1. (C) 2000 by Experta Medica, Inc.
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