Conference Coverage

Thrombolysis is safe in stroke patients on oral anticoagulants



Intravenous thrombolysis (IVT) for acute stroke appears safe for patients who have recently received direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC) therapy, a new observational study suggests, prompting researchers to ask whether guidelines that restrict its use should be updated.

Researchers found that DOAC users were significantly less likely to develop symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (sICH) after IVT, and there was no difference in functional independence at 3 months, compared with patients who received IVT but who did not receive DOAC.

“At the moment, the guidelines really pose a barrier and stop sign in front of the most important medical reperfusion therapy, which is thrombolysis,” said principal investigator Jan Purrucker, MD, professor of neurology at Heidelberg University Hospital.

“The main question we have to answer is, is IVT safe in patients with acute ischemic stroke who were pretreated with direct oral anticoagulants or not?”

The findings were presented at the European Stroke Organisation Conference (ESOC) 2022, Lyon, France.

A ‘daily clinical problem’

As many as 20% of patients with atrial fibrillation experience ischemic stroke while receiving DOAC therapy. Reperfusion therapy with intravenous alteplase is considered standard of care for acute ischemic stroke, but current guidelines recommend against the use of IVT for patients who have recently received a DOAC, owing to safety concerns that researchers say are not backed by strong clinical evidence.

A recent study found no significant difference in sICH among patients who received IV alteplase for acute ischemic stroke within 7 days of receiving therapy with non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants.

“In our daily clinical practice, we face a lot of patients who have received oral anticoagulation, many with atrial fibrillation, but a lot of other indicators as well, and they suffer from ischemic stroke,” Dr. Purrucker said. “They usually are ineligible for medical reperfusion therapy because of quite strict guideline recommendations at the moment. This is a daily clinical problem.”

Dr. Purrucker and colleagues in New Zealand and Switzerland launched an international, observational, multicenter cohort study to examine the issue.

Researchers collected data on patients with ischemic stroke who had last received DOAC therapy 48 hours or less before the event or whose last intake was unknown and who had received IVT. They included 20,448 patients, 830 of whom were receiving DOAC therapy at the time of stroke onset.

Among the DOAC users, 30% received DOAC reversal prior to IVT, 27% had their DOAC level measured, and 42% received IVT without reversal treatment or knowledge of DOAC levels.

Overall, 4.5% of patients developed sICH. Compared with the control group, DOAC users were half as likely to develop sICH (adjusted odds ratio, 0.47; P = .003).

There was no significant difference between groups in independent outcome at 3 months, defined as a Modified Rankin Scale score of 1 to 3 (aOR, 1.21; 95% confidence interval, 0.99-1.49).

This finding held across patient subgroups, including patients for whom selection methods differed and patients with very recent intake of less than 12 hours.

“The question is whether we are so confident in these data that we would change our clinical practice now,” Dr. Purrucker said.


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