Patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) have a high risk of stroke and mortality, which can be considerably reduced by oral anticoagulants (OAC). Recently, four non-vitamin-K oral anticoagulants (NOACs) were compared with warfarin in large randomized trials for the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism. Today's clinician is faced with the difficult task of selecting a suitable OAC for a patient with a particular clinical profile or a particular pattern of risk factors and concomitant diseases. We reviewed analyses of subgroups of patients from trials of vitamin K antagonists vs. NOACs for stroke prevention in AF with the aim to identify patient groups who might benefit from a particular OAC more than from another. In the first of a two-part review, we discuss the choice of NOAC for stroke prevention in the following subgroups of patients with AF: (i) stable coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease, including percutaneous coronary intervention with stenting and triple therapy; (ii) cardioversion, ablation and anti-arrhythmic drug therapy; (iii) mechanical valves and rheumatic valve disease, (iv) patients with time in therapeutic range of >70% on warfarin; (v) patients with a single stroke risk factor (CHA2DS2VASc score of 1 in males, 2 in females); and (vi) patients with a single first episode of paroxysmal AF. Although there are no major differences in terms of efficacy and safety between the NOACs for some clinical scenarios, in others we are able to suggest that particular drugs and/or doses be prioritized for anticoagulation.
Keywords: Anticoagulation; Non-valvular atrial fibrillation; Non-vitamin-K oral antagonist; Stroke prevention.
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