Growth-differentiation factor 15 and risk of major bleeding in atrial fibrillation: Insights from the Randomized Evaluation of Long-Term Anticoagulation Therapy (RE-LY) trial

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To evaluate and validate the prognostic value of growth-differentiation factor 15 (GDF-15) beyond clinical characteristics and other biomarkers concerning bleeding and stroke outcomes in patients with atrial fibrillation in the RE-LY trial.


GDF-15 was measured in samples collected at randomization in 8,474 patients with a median follow-up time of 1.9 years. Patients were stratified based on predefined GDF-15 cutoffs: group 1, <1,200 ng/L (the 90th percentile in healthy individuals); group 2, 1,200-1,800; and group 3, >1,800 ng/L (high-risk individuals). Efficacy and safety outcomes were compared across groups of GDF-15 in Cox models adjusted for baseline characteristics, cardiac (N-terminal pro–b-type natriuretic peptide, high-sensitive troponin T), inflammatory (interleukin 6, C-reactive protein) and coagulation (D-dimer) biomarkers, and randomized treatment.


GDF-15 concentrations were <1,200 ng/L in 2,647 (31.2%), between 1,200 and 1,800 ng/L in 2,704 (31.9%), and >1,800 ng/L in 3,123 (36.9%) participants, respectively. Annual rates of stroke, major bleeding, and mortality increased with higher GDF-15 levels. The prognostic value of GDF-15 was independent of clinical characteristics for these outcomes. In models also adjusted for biomarkers, GDF-15 remained significantly associated with major bleeding (hazard ratio [95% CI] group 3 vs group 1 1.76 [1.28-2.42], P < .0005) and all-cause mortality (hazard ratio 1.72 [1.30-2.29], P < .0005). GDF-15 improved the c index of both the HAS-BLED (0.62-0.69) and ORBIT (0.68-0.71) bleeding risk scores.


In patients with atrial fibrillation, GDF-15 is an independent risk indicator for major bleeding and all-cause mortality, but not for stroke. Therefore, GDF-15 seems useful as a specific marker of bleeding in patients with AF on oral anticoagulant treatment.

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