Minimizing bleeding risk in patients receiving direct oral anticoagulants for stroke prevention
Jeffrey Steven Habert
Department of Family and Community Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada
Abstract: Many primary care physicians are wary about using direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF). Factors such as comorbidities, concomitant medications, and alcohol misuse increase concerns over bleeding risk, especially in elderly and frail patients with AF. This article discusses strategies to minimize the risk of major bleeding events in patients with AF who may benefit from oral anticoagulant therapy for stroke prevention. The potential benefits of the DOACs compared with vitamin K antagonists, in terms of a lower risk of intracranial hemorrhage, are discussed, together with the identification of reversible risk factors for bleeding and correct dose selection of the DOACs based on a patient’s characteristics and concomitant medications. Current bleeding management strategies, including the new reversal agents for the DOACs and the prevention of bleeding during preoperative anticoagulation treatment, in addition to health care resource use associated with anticoagulation treatment and bleeding, are also discussed. Implementing a structured approach at an individual patient level will minimize the overall risk of bleeding and should increase physician confidence in using the DOACs for stroke prevention in their patients with nonvalvular AF.
Keywords: anticoagulants, atrial fibrillation, bleeding, primary care
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