Background: Clinical guidelines recommend peri-cardioversion anticoagulation in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to compare the safety and efficacy of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) versus vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) in patients with AF undergoing cardioversion.
Methods: We searched CENTRAL, MEDLINE, and EMBASE for randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies comparing DOACs to VKAs in patients undergoing cardioversion for AF. We performed title, abstract, and full-text screening, data extraction, and risk of bias evaluation independently and in duplicate. We pooled data using a random effects model and evaluated the overall quality of evidence using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation.
Results: We identified three eligible RCTs (n = 5203) and 21 observational studies (n = 11,855). The three RCTs and four observational studies were at low risk of bias. In RCTs (mean follow-up, 30 days), thromboembolic events occurred in 0.18% of patients receiving DOACs, as compared with 0.55% receiving VKAs (relative risk [RR] 0.40, 95% CI [0.13, 1.24], moderate quality). Major bleeding occurred in 0.42% of patients receiving DOACs as compared with 0.64% receiving VKAs (RR 0.62, 95% CI [0.28, 1.35], moderate quality), and death occurred in 0.28% of patients receiving DOACs as compared with 0.38% receiving VKAs (RR 0.70, 95% CI [0.23, 2.10], low quality). Confidence in the estimates of effect for observational studies was very low.
Conclusion: DOACs peri-cardioversion in patients with AF appears safe from both a bleeding and thromboembolic risk perspective. Available evidence supports the use of DOACs as standard of care peri-cardioversion in patients with AF.
Keywords: Anticoagulation; Cardiology; Cardioversion; Stroke; Thrombosis.