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Peri-procedural management of patients taking oral anticoagulants.

The use of oral anticoagulants is becoming increasingly common. For many years warfarin was the main oral anticoagulant available, but therapeutic options have expanded with the introduction of oral direct thrombin (dabigatran) and factor Xa inhibitors (apixaban, rivaroxaban, and edoxaban). Management of patients taking any oral anticoagulant in the peri-procedural period poses a challenge to medical and surgical providers because of the competing risks of thrombosis and hemorrhage. Bridging therapy has been used to minimize time without anticoagulation when warfarin is interrupted for invasive procedures, but validated strategies based on high quality data are lacking. Existing data suggest that the use of bridging therapy may increase the risk of bleeding for some patients without reducing the risk of thrombosis. Clinical trials are currently under way to answer these questions. Because the half lives and time to anticoagulant activity of newer oral anticoagulants are shorter than for warfarin, bridging therapy is not thought to be necessary with these agents. Peri-procedural management of patients taking these agents is complicated by the lack of demonstrated reversal agents in emergency situations, although specific antidotes are being developed and tested. Existing guidelines for peri-procedural management of patients on oral anticoagulants highlight the importance of individualized patient decision making and suggest strategies to minimize complications. From a patient's perspective, given the uncertainties surrounding optimal management, explicit discussions regarding risks and benefits of treatment options and demonstration of effective communication among medical and surgical providers are essential.

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