Direct oral anticoagulants: key considerations for use to prevent stroke in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation
Department of Cardiology, Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, Birmingham, UK
Abstract: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia worldwide. Strokes that occur as a complication of AF are usually more severe and associated with a higher disability or morbidity and mortality rate compared with non-AF-related strokes. The risk of stroke in AF is dependent on several risk factors; AF itself acts as an independent risk factor for stroke. The combination of effective anticoagulation therapy, risk stratification (based on stroke risk scores, such as CHADS2 and CHA2DS2-VASc), and recommendations provided by guidelines is essential for decreasing the risk of stroke in patients with AF. Although effective in preventing the occurrence of stroke, vitamin K antagonists (VKAs; eg, warfarin) are associated with several limitations. Therefore, direct oral anticoagulants, such as apixaban, dabigatran etexilate, edoxaban, and rivaroxaban, have emerged as an alternative to the VKAs for stroke prevention in patients with nonvalvular AF. Compared with the VKAs, these agents have more favorable pharmacological characteristics and, unlike the VKAs, they are given at fixed doses without the need for routine coagulation monitoring. It remains important that physicians use these direct oral anticoagulants responsibly to ensure optimal safety and effectiveness. This article provides an overview of the existing data on the direct oral anticoagulants, focusing on management protocols for aiding physicians to optimize anticoagulant therapy in patients with nonvalvular AF, particularly in special patient populations (eg, those with renal impairment) and other specific clinical situations.
Keywords: direct oral anticoagulants, nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, rivaroxaban, stroke prevention, warfarin
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