BACKGROUND: Catheter ablation is recommended as a first- or second-line rhythm control therapy for selected patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). There is a wide variability in the periprocedural management of oral anticoagulation in patients undergoing AF ablation.
OBJECTIVE: We aimed to perform an updated meta-analysis of novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs) vs vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) as uninterrupted anticoagulation in patients undergoing AF ablation.
METHODS: Databases and conference abstracts were searched. Studies were excluded if oral anticoagulants were held at any periprocedural period. The primary outcomes were stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) and major bleeding.
RESULTS: Twelve studies and 4962 patients were included. Stroke or TIA was rare (NOAC, 0.08%; VKA, 0.16%) and not different between groups (odds ratio [OR] 0.66; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.19–2.30). The incidence of silent cerebral embolic events was also not significantly different between NOACs (8%) and VKAs (9.6%) (OR 0.86; 95% CI 0.42–1.76). Major bleeding was significantly reduced in the NOAC group (0.9%) as compared with VKA-treated patients (2%) (OR 0.50; 95% CI 0.30–0.84; P < .01). This finding was confirmed in a subgroup analysis of randomized and cohort studies with matched controls (OR 0.45; 95% CI 0.24–0.83; P = .01). There was no significant difference in the outcomes of individual NOACs and VKAs, although these analyses may have been underpowered to detect minor differences in such rare outcomes.
CONCLUSIONS: In patients undergoing AF ablation, uninterrupted periprocedural NOACs are associated with a low incidence of stroke or TIA and a significant reduction in major bleeding as compared with uninterrupted VKAs.