BACKGROUND: Oral anticoagulation (OAC) reduces stroke risk in atrial fibrillation, but bleeding is a frequent side effect. The decision to discontinue or modify medication regimens in response to a bleeding event may differ according to bleeding site and severity.
METHODS AND RESULTS: We used data from a large, national outpatient registry, ORBIT‐AF (Outcomes Registry for Better Informed Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation; 2010–2011), to evaluate event characteristics and OAC management following the first bleeding event occurring during follow‐up. Bleeding events were classified into 3 categories: (1) International Society of Thrombosis and Hemostasis major bleeding, (2) clinically relevant nonmajor bleeding requiring medical attention, and (3) nuisance bleeding not requiring medical attention (eg, bruising, hemorrhoidal bleeding). Of 9743 patients enrolled in ORBIT‐AF with follow‐up data, 510 (3.23/100 subject‐years) experienced a major bleed, 615 (3.90/100 subject‐years), experienced a clinically relevant nonmajor bleed, and 1558 (9.87/100 subject‐years) experienced a nuisance bleed, among first bleeds over 2 years. Nearly one third of patients (31.6%) discontinued OAC therapy following a major bleeding event, 12.7% following a clinically relevant nonmajor bleed, and 4.5% following a nuisance bleed. Compared with those who experienced a clinically relevant nonmajor or nuisance bleed, patients who experienced a major bleed were more likely to be black and female and to have a history of heart failure and stroke. Those who discontinued were more likely to have central nervous system or gastrointestinal bleeding than those who persisted on OAC therapy.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, 1 in 3 patients who experienced a major bleed was no longer anticoagulated after the event. Those who discontinued OAC were more likely to have central nervous system or gastrointestinal bleeding than those who persisted on OAC.