Ann Intern Med. 2021 Sep 14. doi: 10.7326/M21-1094. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: The long-term risk for major bleeding in patients receiving extended (beyond the initial 3 to 6 months) anticoagulant therapy for a first unprovoked venous thromboembolism (VTE) is uncertain.
PURPOSE: To determine the incidence of major bleeding during extended anticoagulation of up to 5 years among patients with a first unprovoked VTE, overall, and in clinically important subgroups.
DATA SOURCES: MEDLINE, Embase, and the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials from inception to 23 July 2021.
STUDY SELECTION: Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and prospective cohort studies reporting major bleeding among patients with a first unprovoked VTE who were to receive oral anticoagulation for a minimum of 6 additional months after completing at least 3 months of initial anticoagulant treatment.
DATA EXTRACTION: Two reviewers independently abstracted data and assessed study quality. Unpublished data required for analyses were obtained from authors of included studies.
DATA SYNTHESIS: Among the 14 RCTs and 13 cohort studies included in the analysis, 9982 patients received a vitamin K antagonist (VKA) and 7220 received a direct oral anticoagulant (DOAC). The incidence of major bleeding per 100 person-years was 1.74 events (95% CI, 1.34 to 2.20 events) with VKAs and 1.12 events (CI, 0.72 to 1.62 events) with DOACs. The 5-year cumulative incidence of major bleeding with VKAs was 6.3% (CI, 3.6% to 10.0%). Among patients receiving either a VKA or a DOAC, the incidence of major bleeding was statistically significantly higher among those who were older than 65 years or had creatinine clearance less than 50 mL/min, a history of bleeding, concomitant use of antiplatelet therapy, or a hemoglobin level less than 100 g/L. The case-fatality rate of major bleeding was 8.3% (CI, 5.1% to 12.2%) with VKAs and 9.7% (CI, 3.2% to 19.2%) with DOACs.
LIMITATION: Data were insufficient to estimate incidence of major bleeding beyond 1 year of extended anticoagulation with DOACs.
CONCLUSION: In patients with a first unprovoked VTE, the long-term risks and consequences of anticoagulant-related major bleeding are considerable. This information will help inform patient prognosis and guide decision making about treatment duration for unprovoked VTE.
PRIMARY FUNDING SOURCE: Canadian Institutes of Health Research. (PROSPERO: CRD42019128597).