Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are increasingly used in the treatment and prophylaxis of thromboembolism because of several advantages over vitamin K antagonists, including no need for laboratory monitoring. However, it has become increasingly important in certain clinical scenarios to know either actual DOAC concentration (quantitative) or presence of DOAC (qualitative). These clinical conditions include patients presenting with major bleeding or requiring urgent surgery who may need a reversal or hemostatic agent, extremes of body weight, failed therapy, etc. Prothrombin time and activated partial thromboplastin time are variably affected by factor Xa inhibitors (FXaIs) and direct thrombin inhibitor (DTI), respectively, depending on reagents' sensitivity, and hence, they cannot be relied on confidently. Thrombin time is highly sensitive to very low amounts of DTI; thus, normal value rules out a clinically significant amount. Liquid chromatography mass spectrometry accurately measures DOAC levels but is clinically impractical. Dilute thrombin time and ecarin-based assays using appropriate calibrators/controls provide an accurate DTI level. Anti-Xa assay using corresponding FXaI calibrators/controls provides accurate drug levels. However, these assays are not readily available in the United States compared with some other parts of the world. Heparin assays using anti-Xa activity often have a linear relationship with calibrated FXaI assays, especially at the lower end of on-therapy levels, and they may provide rapid assessment of drug activity for clinical decision making. Currently, there is very limited knowledge of DOAC effect on viscoelastic measurements. Although there is uniformity in expression of DOAC concentrations in nanograms per milliliter, a universal FXaI DOAC assay is urgently needed.
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