Emergency Coagulation Assessment During Treatment With Direct Oral Anticoagulants: Limitations and Solutions

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Background and Purpose—In patients receiving direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), emergency treatment like thrombolysis for acute ischemic stroke is complicated by insufficient availability of DOAC-specific coagulation tests. Conflicting recommendations have been published concerning the use of global coagulation assays for ruling out relevant DOAC-induced anticoagulation.Methods—Four hundred eighty-one samples from 96 DOAC-treated patients were tested using prothrombin time (PT), activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT) and thrombin time (TT), DOAC-specific assays (anti-Xa activity, diluted TT), and liquid chromatography–tandem mass spectrometry. Sensitivity and specificity of test results to identify DOAC concentrations <30 ng/mL were calculated. Receiver operating characteristic analyses were used to define reagent-specific cutoff values.Results—Normal PT and aPTT provide insufficient specificity to safely identify DOAC concentrations <30 ng/mL (rivaroxaban/PT: specificity, 77%/sensitivity, 94%; apixaban/PT: specificity, 13%/sensitivity, 94%, dabigatran/aPTT: specificity, 49%/sensitivity, 91%). Normal TT was 100% specific for dabigatran, but sensitivity was 26%. In contrast, reagent-specific PT and aPTT cutoffs provided >95% specificity and a specific TT cutoff enhanced sensitivity for dabigatran to 84%. For apixaban, no cutoffs could be established.Conclusions—Even if highly DOAC-reactive reagents are used, normal results of global coagulation tests are not suited to guide emergency treatment: whereas normal PT and aPTT lack specificity to rule out DOAC-induced anticoagulation, the low sensitivity of normal TT excludes the majority of eligible patients from treatment. However, reagent-specific cutoffs for global coagulation tests ensure high specificity and optimize sensitivity for safe emergency decision making in rivaroxaban- and dabigatran-treated patients.Clinical Trial Registration—URL: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. Unique identifiers: NCT02371044 and NCT02371070.

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