Background: Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a condition in which a clot forms in the deep veins, most commonly of the leg. It occurs in approximately one in 1000 people. If left untreated, the clot can travel up to the lungs and cause a potentially life-threatening pulmonary embolism (PE). Previously, a DVT was treated with the anticoagulants heparin and vitamin K antagonists. However, two forms of direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) have been developed: oral direct thrombin inhibitors (DTIs) and oral factor Xa inhibitors, which have characteristics that may be favourable compared to conventional treatment, including oral administration, a predictable effect, lack of frequent monitoring or dose adjustment and few known drug interactions. DOACs are now commonly being used for treating DVT: recent guidelines recommended DOACs over conventional anticoagulants for both DVT and PE treatment. This Cochrane Review was first published in 2015. It was the first systematic review to measure the effectiveness and safety of these drugs in the treatment of DVT. This is an update of the 2015 review. OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness and safety of oral DTIs and oral factor Xa inhibitors versus conventional anticoagulants for the long-term treatment of DVT.
Search methods: The Cochrane Vascular Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Vascular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL databases and the World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and ClinicalTrials.gov trials registers to 1 March 2022.
Selection criteria: We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) in which people with a DVT, confirmed by standard imaging techniques, were allocated to receive an oral DTI or an oral factor Xa inhibitor compared with conventional anticoagulation or compared with each other for the treatment of DVT. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: We used standard Cochrane methods. Our primary outcomes were recurrent venous thromboembolism (VTE), recurrent DVT and PE. Secondary outcomes included all-cause mortality, major bleeding, post-thrombotic syndrome (PTS) and quality of life (QoL). We used GRADE to assess the certainty of evidence for each outcome.
Main results: We identified 10 new studies with 2950 participants for this update. In total, we included 21 RCTs involving 30,895 participants. Three studies investigated oral DTIs (two dabigatran and one ximelagatran), 17 investigated oral factor Xa inhibitors (eight rivaroxaban, five apixaban and four edoxaban) and one three-arm trial investigated both a DTI (dabigatran) and factor Xa inhibitor (rivaroxaban). Overall, the studies were of good methodological quality. Meta-analysis comparing DTIs to conventional anticoagulation showed no clear difference in the rate of recurrent VTE (odds ratio (OR) 1.17, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.83 to 1.65; 3 studies, 5994 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), recurrent DVT (OR 1.11, 95% CI 0.74 to 1.66; 3 studies, 5994 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), fatal PE (OR 1.32, 95% CI 0.29 to 6.02; 3 studies, 5994 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), non-fatal PE (OR 1.29, 95% CI 0.64 to 2.59; 3 studies, 5994 participants; moderate-certainty evidence) or all-cause mortality (OR 0.66, 95% CI 0.41 to 1.08; 1 study, 2489 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). DTIs reduced the rate of major bleeding (OR 0.58, 95% CI 0.38 to 0.89; 3 studies, 5994 participants; high-certainty evidence). For oral factor Xa inhibitors compared with conventional anticoagulation, meta-analysis demonstrated no clear difference in recurrent VTE (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.71 to 1.01; 13 studies, 17,505 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), recurrent DVT (OR 0.70, 95% CI 0.49 to 1.01; 9 studies, 16,439 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), fatal PE (OR 1.18, 95% CI 0.69 to 2.02; 6 studies, 15,082 participants; moderate-certainty evidence), non-fatal PE (OR 0.93, 95% CI 0.68 to 1.27; 7 studies, 15,166 participants; moderate-certainty evidence) or all-cause mortality (OR 0.87, 95% CI 0.67 to 1.14; 9 studies, 10,770 participants; moderate-certainty evidence). Meta-analysis showed a reduced rate of major bleeding with oral factor Xa inhibitors compared with conventional anticoagulation (OR 0.63, 95% CI 0.45 to 0.89; 17 studies, 18,066 participants; high-certainty evidence). AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The current review suggests that DOACs may be superior to conventional therapy in terms of safety (major bleeding), and are probably equivalent in terms of efficacy. There is probably little or no difference between DOACs and conventional anticoagulation in the prevention of recurrent VTE, recurrent DVT, pulmonary embolism and all-cause mortality. DOACs reduced the rate of major bleeding compared to conventional anticoagulation. The certainty of evidence was moderate or high.
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