PURPOSE: Patients with Atrial Fibrillation (AF) and prior stroke are classified as high risk in all risk stratification schemes. A systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to compare the efficacy and safety of New Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs) to warfarin in patients with AF and previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).

METHODS: Three randomized controlled trials (RCTs), including total 14527 patients, comparing NOACs (apixaban, dabigatran and rivaroxaban) with warfarin were included in the analysis. Primary efficacy endpoint was ischemic stroke, and primary safety endpoint was intracranial bleeding. Random-effects models were used to pool efficacy and safety data across RCTs. RevMan and Stata software were used for direct and indirect comparisons, respectively.

RESULTS: In patients with AF and previous stroke or TIA, effects of NOACs were not statistically different from that of warfarin, in reduction of stroke (Odds Ratio [OR] 0.86, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.73- 1.01), disabling and fatal stroke (OR 0.85, 95% CI 0.71-1.04), and all-cause mortality (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.79 -1.02). Randomization to NOACs was associated with a significantly lower risk of intracranial bleeding (OR 0.42, 95% CI 0.25-0.70). There were no major differences in efficacy between apixaban, dabigatran (110 mg BID and 150 mg BID) and rivaroxaban. Major bleeding was significantly lower with apixaban and dabigatran (110 mg BID) compared with dabigatran (150 mg BID) and rivaroxaban.

CONCLUSION: NOACs may not be more effective than warfarin in the secondary prevention of ischemic stroke in patients with a prior history of cerebrovascular ischemia, but have a lower risk of intracranial bleeding.

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Published in PLOS One, v. 8, issue. 10, e77694.

© 2013 Sardar et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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Checklist_S1.doc (64 kB)
PRISMA Checklist of items to include when reporting a systematic review or meta-analysis.

Table_S1.docx (27 kB)
Definitions of efficacy and safety outcomes.