Warfarin in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation—Time for a change?

Robert F. Reilly, Nishank Jain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

Abstract

Warfarin is the most commonly prescribed anticoagulant in hemodialysis (HD) patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF). Recent trends show that Nephrologists are increasingly prescribing novel oral anticoagulants, despite the fact that no randomized clinical trials have been conducted in dialysis patients. Difficulties maintaining international normalized ratio in the therapeutic range, increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage and concerns regarding warfarin-induced vascular calcification and calciphylaxis may be responsible. Anticoagulation quality is poor in HD patients. A variety of factors contribute to this: increased antibiotic exposure; comorbid illness; decreased adherence and vitamin K deficiency. Attempts to address this with standardized protocols have been uniformly unsuccessful. In nonadherent patients, thrice weekly observed therapy improved quality. Low-dose vitamin K supplementation improves time in the therapeutic range (TTR) in those with normal kidney function and should be studied in HD patients given their high frequency of vitamin K deficiency. Vascular and valvular calcification associated with warfarin could result from reduced carboxylation of matrix Gla protein (MGP), a well-known inhibitor of vascular calcification. Multiple observational studies also link calciphylaxis to warfarin; warfarin-induced hypercoagulability and decreased carboxylation of MGP could explain this. A large observational study, two meta-analyses, and a systematic review in HD patients with NVAF showed reduced bleeding with apixaban compared to warfarin with similar efficacy in reducing stroke and systemic embolism. Given these results, apixaban is a reasonable alternative to warfarin for anticoagulation of HD patients with NVAF, especially in those with low TTR, until data from randomized clinical trials become available.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)520-526
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in Dialysis
Volume32
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • INR variability
  • calciphylaxis
  • time in therapeutic range
  • vascular calcification
  • warfarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology

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