Continuous warfarin versus periprocedural dabigatran to reduce stroke and systemic embolism in patients undergoing catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation or left atrial flutter

Daniel W Kaiser, Megan M Streur, Rangadham Nagarakanti, S Patrick Whalen, Christopher R Ellis
Journal of Interventional Cardiac Electrophysiology: An International Journal of Arrhythmias and Pacing 2013, 37 (3): 241-7

PURPOSE: Left atrial catheter ablation for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) requires periprocedural anticoagulation to minimize thromboembolic complications. High rates of major bleeding complications using dabigatran etexilate for periprocedural anticoagulation have been reported, raising concerns regarding its safety during left atrial catheter ablation. We sought to evaluate the safety and efficacy of a dabigatran use strategy versus warfarin, at a single high-volume AF ablation center.

METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis on consecutive patients undergoing left atrial ablation at Vanderbilt Medical Center from January 2011 through August 2012 with a minimum follow-up of 3 months. Patient cohorts were divided into two groups, those utilizing dabigatran etexilate pre- and post-ablation and those undergoing ablation on dose-adjusted warfarin, with or without low-molecular-weight heparin bridging. Dabigatran was held 24-30 h pre-procedure and restarted 4-6 h after hemostasis was achieved. We evaluated all thromboembolic and bleeding complications at 3 months post-ablation.

RESULTS: A total of 254 patients underwent left atrial catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation or left atrial flutter. Periprocedural anticoagulation utilized dabigatran in 122 patients and warfarin in 135 patients. Three late thromboembolic complications occurred in the dabigatran group (2.5 %), compared with one (0.7 %) in the warfarin group (p = 0.28). The dabigatran group had similar minor bleeding (2.5 vs. 7.4 %, p = 0.07), major bleeding (1.6 vs. 0.7 %, p = 0.51), and composite of bleeding and thromboembolic complications (6.6 vs. 8.9 %, p = 0.49) when compared to warfarin. There were no acute thromboembolic complications in either group (<24 h post-ablation).

CONCLUSIONS: In patients undergoing left atrial catheter ablation for AF or left atrial flutter, use of periprocedural dabigatran etexilate provides a safe and effective anticoagulation strategy compared to warfarin. A prospective randomized study is warranted.

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