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Minerva Cardioangiologica 2018 June;66(3):301-13

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4725.17.04553-4

Copyright © 2017 EDIZIONI MINERVA MEDICA

language: English

Direct oral anticoagulants use in elderly patients with non valvular atrial fibrillation: state of evidence

Giulia BENEDETTI , Matteo NECCIA, Luciano AGATI

Department of Cardiovascular, Respiratory, Nephrology, Anestesiology and Geriatric Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy


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Non-valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) increases the risk of stroke by three- to five-fold, especially in elderly patients, creating a huge burden on medical system as well as a negative impact on patients’ lives. Balancing efficacy and bleeding risk is a challenge when considering anticoagulation therapy in elderly patients, because of their frequent high risk of both stroke and bleeding. Real world data reveal the underuse of anticoagulation in the elderly, especially due to physicians’ fear of bleeding, often neglecting the thromboembolic risk. Care of elderly patients with NVAF is often complicated by factors including adherence, cognitive impairment, health literacy, risk of falling, adverse effects, involvement of caregivers, and patient-physician relationship. Therefore, shared decision making and conversations between clinicians and patients are crucial. In addition, elderly patients often suffer from multiple comorbidities, requiring multiple concomitant medications, with an increased risk of drug interactions. Four non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants, the so-called direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) - dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban - have been approved for reducing the risk of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with NVAF. Clinical trials and real-world data show the advantages of this class of drugs compared to conventional anticoagulation in the treatment of elderly patients with NVAF and identify subgroups of older patients who may be more suitable candidates for particular agents. However, there are conflicting opinions on the absolute benefit of DOACs use in elderly patients. A key factor to consider is that elderly patients frequently suffer from renal impairment and therefore dose adjustments according to creatinine clearance are mandatory for DOACs. As each DOAC comes with its own unique advantages and safety profile, a personalized case by case approach should be adopted to decide on the appropriate anticoagulation regimen for elderly patients after weighing the overall risks and benefits of therapy.


KEY WORDS: Anticoagulants - Atrial fibrillation - Aged

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