Abstract

Bleeding is the main complication of oral anticoagulant (OAC) therapy, with major bleeds occurring in about 2% to 4% of OAC-treated patients per year. Although direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) reduce the risk of major, fatal, and intracranial hemorrhage, major DOAC-related bleeding is associated with substantial morbidity and mortality, with case-fatality rates of 8% to 15% reported. Specific reversal agents for dabigatran (idarucizumab) and factor Xa inhibitors (andexanet) correct laboratory indices of anticoagulant effect. Clinical studies suggest that the majority of patients receiving these agents for DOAC-associated major bleeds experience clinical hemostasis. However, uncertainty remains regarding the incremental benefit of these agents and prothrombin complex concentrates over supportive measures alone, based on cohort studies that lacked control groups. Similar methodologic limitations preclude firm conclusions regarding the harms associated with use of these agents. Importantly, patients with DOAC-related major bleeding have substantial short-term risks of thrombosis and mortality, emphasizing the need for individualized patient assessment and protocolized bleed management strategies that include assessment of candidacy for safe resumption of OACs. With expanding indications and increasing prevalence of DOAC-eligible patients, bleeding complications and their management represent an ever-greater major health problem.

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