Association of Recent Use of Non–Vitamin K Antagonist Oral Anticoagulants With Intracranial Hemorrhage Among Patients With Acute Ischemic Stroke Treated With Alteplase

Key Points

Question  Is the recent use of non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) associated with increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage among patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with intravenous alteplase?

Findings  This US retrospective cohort study included 163 038 patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with alteplase. Among patients with use of NOACs within 7 days of hospital arrival vs patients with no use of anticoagulants, intracranial hemorrhage occurred in 3.7% vs 3.2%, respectively, a difference that was not statistically significant after multivariable adjustment.

Meaning  Recent use of NOACs was not significantly associated with increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage among patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with alteplase.

Abstract

Importance  Current guidelines recommend against use of intravenous alteplase in patients with acute ischemic stroke who are taking non–vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs).

Objective  To evaluate the safety and functional outcomes of intravenous alteplase among patients who were taking NOACs prior to stroke and compare outcomes with patients who were not taking long-term anticoagulants.

Design, Setting, and Participants  A retrospective cohort study of 163 038 patients with acute ischemic stroke either taking NOACs or not taking anticoagulants prior to stroke and treated with intravenous alteplase within 4.5 hours of symptom onset at 1752 US hospitals participating in the Get With The Guidelines–Stroke program between April 2015 and March 2020, with complementary data from the Addressing Real-world Anticoagulant Management Issues in Stroke registry.

Exposures  Prestroke treatment with NOACs within 7 days prior to alteplase treatment.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage occurring within 36 hours after intravenous alteplase administration. There were 4 secondary safety outcomes, including inpatient mortality, and 7 secondary functional outcomes assessed at hospital discharge, including the proportion of patients discharged home.

Results  Of 163 038 patients treated with intravenous alteplase (median age, 70 [IQR, 59 to 81] years; 49.1% women), 2207 (1.4%) were taking NOACs and 160 831 (98.6%) were not taking anticoagulants prior to their stroke. Patients taking NOACs were older (median age, 75 [IQR, 64 to 82] years vs 70 [IQR, 58 to 81] years for those not taking anticoagulants), had a higher prevalence of cardiovascular comorbidities, and experienced more severe strokes (median National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score, 10 [IQR, 5 to 17] vs 7 [IQR, 4 to 14]) (all standardized differences >10). The unadjusted rate of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage was 3.7% (95% CI, 2.9% to 4.5%) for patients taking NOACs vs 3.2% (95% CI, 3.1% to 3.3%) for patients not taking anticoagulants. After adjusting for baseline clinical factors, the risk of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage was not significantly different between groups (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 0.88 [95% CI, 0.70 to 1.10]; adjusted risk difference [RD], −0.51% [95% CI, −1.36% to 0.34%]). There were no significant differences in the secondary safety outcomes, including inpatient mortality (6.3% for patients taking NOACs vs 4.9% for patients not taking anticoagulants; adjusted OR, 0.84 [95% CI, 0.69 to 1.01]; adjusted RD, −1.20% [95% CI, −2.39% to −0%]). Of the secondary functional outcomes, 4 of 7 showed significant differences in favor of the NOAC group after adjustment, including the proportion of patients discharged home (45.9% vs 53.6% for patients not taking anticoagulants; adjusted OR, 1.17 [95% CI, 1.06 to 1.29]; adjusted RD, 3.84% [95% CI, 1.46% to 6.22%]).

Conclusions and Relevance  Among patients with acute ischemic stroke treated with intravenous alteplase, use of NOACs within the preceding 7 days, compared with no use of anticoagulants, was not associated with a significantly increased risk of intracranial hemorrhage.

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