Atrial fibrillation (AF) is highly prevalent among patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD), and also associated with unfavorable outcome. Anticoagulant therapy is the mainstep of management in such patients, aimed at reducing the high risk of systemic thromboembolism and especially of ischemic stroke, which is reportedly associated with increased mortality in CKD patients. Even though new direct oral anticoagulant agents (DOACs) proved to be effective in patients with non valvular chronic AF, and are therefore recommended by recent guidelines for their treatment, warfarin is currently used in more than one-half of subjects needing oral anticoagulation, and only 30% of them are converted from a vitamin K antagonist- to a DOAC-based regimen. The main reason for not prescribing DOACs is often a reduction in renal function, even if mild. Aim of this review was therefore to evaluate the impact of DOAC therapy in the setting of CKD, from a nephrological perspective, by comparing available evidence on the role of DOACs in patients with CKD and AF with that emerging from traditional warfarin-based therapy. Both the pathogenesis of AF in CKD, and available findings of renal, cardiovascular and bone effects of DOACs in CKD are discussed, leading to the conclusion that DOAC therapy should be considered as the first line therapy for non valvular AF in patients with mild and moderate reduction of renal function, and could also be adopted for patients with severe CKD not on hemodialysis treatment, whereas there is insufficient evidence for ESRD patients on dialysis.
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