A Narrative Review of Nonvitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulant Use in Secondary Stroke Prevention
Journal of Stroke & Cerebrovascular Diseases
The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common cardiac arrhythmia, increases with age, predisposing elderly patients to an increased risk of embolic stroke. With an increasingly aged population the number of people who experience a stroke every year, overall global burden of stroke, and numbers of stroke survivors and related deaths continue to increase. Anticoagulation with vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) reduces the risk of ischemic stroke in patients with AF; however, increased
... ever, increased bleeding risk is well documented, particularly in the elderly. Consequently, VKAs have been underused in the elderly. Alternative anticoagulants may offer a safer choice, particularly in patients who have experienced previous stroke. The aim of this narrative review is to examine available evidence for the effective treatment of patients with AF and previous cerebral vascular events with non-VKA oral anticoagulants, including the most appropriate time to start or reinitiate treatment after a stroke, systemic embolism, or clinically relevant bleed. For patients with AF treated with oral anticoagulants it is important to balance increased protection against future stroke/systemic embolism and reduced risk of major bleeding events. For patients with AF who have previously experienced a cerebrovascular event, the use of oral anticoagulants alone also appears more effective than low-molecular weight heparin (LMWH) alone or LMWH followed by oral anticoagulants. Available data suggest that significant reduction in stroke, symptomatic cerebral bleeding, and major extracranial bleeding within 90 days from acute stroke can be achieved if oral anticoagulation is initiated at 4-14 days from stroke onset.