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This is the author's final published version in IJC Heart and Vasculature, Volume 43, December 2022, Article number 101130.

The published version is available online at Copyright © 2022 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V.


Direct-acting oral anticoagulants (DOACs) represent the standard for preventing stroke and systemic embolization (SSE) in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). There is limited information for patients ≥ 80 years. We report a retrospective analysis of AF patients ≥ 80 years prescribed either a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved reduced (n = 514) or full dose (n = 199) DOAC (Dabigatran, Rivaroxaban, or Apixaban) between January 1st, 2011 (first DOAC commercially available) and May 31st, 2017. The following multivariable differences in baseline characteristics were identified: patients prescribed a reduced dose DOAC were older (p < 0.001), had worse renal function (p = 0.001), were more often prescribed aspirin (p = 0.004) or aspirin and clopidogrel (p < 0.001), and more often had new-onset AF (p = 0.001). SSE and central nervous system (CNS) bleed rates were low and not different (1.02 vs 0 %/yr and 1.45 vs 0.44 %/yr) for the reduced and full dose groups, respectively. For non-CNS bleeds, rates were 10.89 vs 4.15 %/yr (p < 0.001, univariable) for the reduced and full doses, respectively. The mortality rate was 6.24 vs 1.75 %/yr (p = 0.001, univariable) for the reduced and full doses. Unlike the non-CNS bleed rate, mortality rate differences remained significant when adjusted for baseline characteristics. Thus, DOACs in patients ≥ 80 with AF effectively reduce SSE with a low risk of CNS bleeding, independent of DOAC dose. The higher non-CNS bleed rate and not the mortality rate is explained by the higher risk baseline characteristics in the reduced DOAC dose group. Further investigation of the etiology of non-CNS bleeds and mortality is warranted.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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