Warfarin use and stroke, bleeding and mortality risk in patients with end stage renal disease and atrial fibrillation: A systematic review and meta-analysis

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Background: Patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD), including stage 5 chronic kidney disease (CKD), hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD), are at high risk for stroke-related morbidity, mortality and bleeding. The overall risk/benefit balance of warfarin treatment among patients with ESRD and AF remains unclear. Methods: We systematically reviewed the associations of warfarin use and stroke outcome, bleeding outcome or mortality in patients with ESRD and AF. We conducted a comprehensive literature search in Feb 2016 using key words related to ESRD, AF and warfarin in PubMed, Embase and Cochrane Library without language restriction. We searched for randomized trials and observational studies that compared the use of warfarin with no treatment, aspirin or direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs), and reported quantitative risk estimates on these outcomes. Paired reviewers screened articles, collected data and performed qualitative assessment using the Cochrane Risk of Bias Assessment Tool for Non-randomized Studies of Interventions. We conducted meta-analyses using the random-effects model with the DerSimonian - Laird estimator and the Knapp-Hartung methods as appropriate. Results: We identified 2709 references and included 20 observational cohort studies that examined stroke outcome, bleeding outcome and mortality associated with warfarin use in 56,146 patients with ESRD and AF. The pooled estimates from meta-analysis for the stroke outcome suggested that warfarin use was not associated with all-cause stroke (HR = 0.92, 95 % CI 0.74-1.16) or any stroke (HR = 1.01, 95 % CI 0.81-1.26), or ischemic stroke (HR = 0.80, 95 % CI 0.58-1.11) among patients with ESRD and AF. In contrast, warfarin use was associated with significantly increased risk of all-cause bleeding (HR = 1.21, 95 % CI 1.01-1.44), but not associated with major bleeding (HR = 1.18, 95 % CI 0.82-1.69) or gastrointestinal bleeding (HR = 1.19, 95 % CI 0.81-1.76) or any bleeding (HR = 1.21, 95 % CI 0.99-1.48). There was insufficient evidence to evaluate the association between warfarin use and mortality in this population (pooled risk estimate not calculated due to high heterogeneity). Results on DOACs were inconclusive due to limited relevant studies. Conclusions: Given the absence of efficacy and an increased bleeding risk, these findings call into question the use of warfarin for AF treatment among patients with ESRD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number157
JournalBMC nephrology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 21 2016


  • Anticoagulants
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • End stage renal disease
  • Warfarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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