Background: Cardiological societies recommend, in their guidelines, that patients with atrial fibrillation and an intermediate (or higher) risk of stroke and systemic embolization should be treated with oral anticoagulant drugs. For patients who do not have mitral valve stenosis or a mechanical valve prosthesis, non-vitamin-K dependent oral anticoagulants (NOAC) are preferred over vitamin K antagonists (VKA) for this purpose. It is unclear, however, whether patients with chronic kidney disease and atrial fibrillation benefit from oral anticoagulation to the same extent as those with normal kidney function. It is also unclear which of the two types of anti - coagulant drug is preferable for patients with chronic kidney disease; NOAC are, in part, renally eliminated.
Methods: This review is based on pertinent publications retrieved by a selective literature search, and on international guidelines.
Results: Current evidence suggests that patients with atrial fibrillation who have chronic kidney disease with a glomerular filtration rate (GFR) above 15 mL/ min/1.73 m² should be treated with an oral anticoagulant drug if they have an at least intermediate risk of embolization, as assessed with the CHA2DS2-VASc score. For patients with advanced chronic kidney disease (GFR from 15 to 29 mL/ min/1.73 m²), however, this recommendation is based only on registry studies. For dialysis patients with atrial fibrillation, decisions whether to give oral anticoagulant drugs should be taken on an individual basis, in view of the elevated risk of hemorrhage and the unclear efficacy of such drugs in these patients. The subgroup analyses of the NOAC approval studies show that, for patients with atrial fibrillation and chronic kidney disease with a creatinine clearance of >25-30 mL/min, NOAC should be given in preference to VKA, as long as the patient does not have mitral valve stenosis or a mechanical valve prosthesis. For those whose creatinine clearance is less than 25 mL/min, the relative merits of NOAC versus VKA are still debated.
Conclusion: The cardiological societies' recommendation that patients with atrial fibrillation should be given oral anticoagulant drugs applies to the majority of such patients who also have chronic kidney disease.