Time trends in intracranial bleeding associated with direct oral anticoagulants: a 5-year cohort study
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BACKGROUND: Over the past 5 years, dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban were approved for stroke prevention. Phase III studies have shown a lower risk of intracranial bleeding with these direct oral anticoagulants than with warfarin; however, there is a lack of real-life data to validate this. We analyzed time trends in atraumatic intracranial bleeding from 2009 to 2013 among patients prescribed oral anticoagulants and those not prescribed oral anticoagulants. METHODS: We used ICD-10-CA (enhanced Canadian version of the 10th revision of the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems) codes to identify all patients with atraumatic intracranial bleeding who presented to our neurosurgical centre (serving a population of more than 1.2 million). Trained researchers extracted data on anticoagulant medications used in the week before diagnosis of the intracranial bleed. Provincial prescription data for oral anticoagulants were obtained from IMS Brogan CompuScript Market Dynamics. The primary outcome was the time trend in incident intracranial bleeds associated with oral anticoagulation during the period 2009-2013. The secondary outcomes were the time trend in intracranial bleeds not associated with oral anticoagulation and the provincial prescribing patterns for oral anticoagulants during the same period. RESULTS: A total of 2050 patients presented with atraumatic intracranial bleeds during the study period. Of the 371 (18%) prescribed an anticoagulant in the week before presentation, 335 were prescribed an oral anticoagulant. There was an increasing time trend in intracranial bleeding associated with oral anticoagulants (p = 0.009; 6 additional events per year) and in intracranial bleeding not associated with oral anticoagulation (p = 0.06). During 2013, prescriptions for warfarin decreased to 70% of all oral anticoagulant prescriptions in the province, whereas those for dabigatran and rivaroxaban increased to 17% and 12%, respectively. INTERPRETATION: We observed increasing time trends in intracranial bleeding, both associated with and not associated with oral anticoagulants, over the study period. Although aggregate provincial data showed increased prescribing of oral anticoagulants, other more likely explanations for our findings include an aging population or increasing frailty.