Stroke prophylaxis in patients with atrial fibrillation and end-stage renal disease

Martin van Zyl, Hafez M. Abdullah, Peter A. Noseworthy, Konstantinos C. Siontis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an important comorbidity in patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) undergoing dialysis that portends increased health care utilization, morbidity, and mortality in this already high-risk population. Patients with ESRD have a particularly high stroke risk, which is further compounded by AF. However, the role of anticoagulation for stroke prophylaxis in ESRD and AF is debated. The ESRD population presents a unique challenge because of the combination of elevated stroke and bleeding risks. Warfarin has been traditionally used in this population, but it is associated with significant risks of minor and major bleeding, particularly intracranial, thus leading many clinicians to forgo anticoagulation altogether. When anticoagulation is prescribed, rates of adherence and persistence are poor, leaving many patients untreated. The direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) may offer an alternative to warfarin in ESRD patients, but these agents have not been extensively studied in this population and uncertainties regarding comparative effectiveness (versus warfarin, each other, and no treatment) remain. In this review, we discuss the current evidence on the risk and benefits of anticoagulants in this challenging population and comparisons between warfarin and DOACs, and review future directions including options for non-pharmacologic stroke prevention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number123
JournalJournal of Clinical Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • Anticoagulation
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • End-stage renal disease
  • Stroke prevention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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