The authors present a unique case of recurrent stroke, discovered to be secondary to hemorrhagic conversion of microemboli from a mechanical aortic valve despite anticoagulation with Coumadin. The complexity of this case was magnified by the patient’s young age, a mechanical heart valve (MHV), and a need for anticoagulation to maintain MHV patency in a setting of potentially life-threatening intracranial hemorrhage. Anticoagulant and antiplatelet therapy are risk factors for hemorrhagic conversion post-cerebral ischemia; however, the pathophysiology underlying endothelial cell dysfunction causing red blood cell extravasation is an active area of basic and clinical research. The need for randomized clinical trials to aid in the creation of standardized treatment protocol continues to go unmet. Consequently, there is marked variation in therapeutic approaches to treating intracranial hemorrhage in patients with an MHV. Unfortunately, patients with an MHV are considered at high thromboembolic (TE) risk, and these patients are often excluded from clinical trials of acute stroke due to their increased TE potential. The authors feel this case represents an example of endothelial dysfunction secondary to microthrombotic events originating from an MHV, which caused ischemic stroke with hemorrhagic conversion complicated by the need for anticoagulation for an MHV. This case offers a definitive treatment algorithm for a complex clinical dilemma.
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