Hamostaseologie 2020; 40(01): 074-083
DOI: 10.1055/s-0040-1701476
Review Article
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

Oral Anticoagulation in the Elderly and Frail

Rupert M. Bauersachs
1  Department of Vascular Medicine, Klinikum Darmstadt GmbH, Darmstadt, Germany
2  Center for Thrombosis and Hemostasis, University Medical Center, Mainz, Germany
Joerg Herold
1  Department of Vascular Medicine, Klinikum Darmstadt GmbH, Darmstadt, Germany
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

11 September 2019

10 December 2019

Publication Date:
30 January 2020 (online)


The proportion of elderly patients will increase substantially over the next decades, and both atrial fibrillation (AF) and venous thromboembolism (VTE) are more common in the elderly. Age is a risk factor not only for stroke and thromboembolism but also for bleeding, particularly in frail patients, in whom numerous pathophysiological changes occur that alter drug kinetics and toxicity of standard doses of oral anticoagulants (OACs). AF trials showed that the relative benefits of direct OACs (DOACs) also applied to elderly patients, and due to their higher risk this translates into a higher absolute risk reduction compared with vitamin K antagonists, suggesting that DOACs are the better choice. All DOACs—at varying extent—are eliminated via the kidney and it is crucial to evaluate renal function at initiation and during follow-up, especially for dabigatran. The fear of falls is a common reason against OAC. However, there is still a benefit with OAC, particularly with DOACs given the lower risk of intracranial hemorrhage. Polypharmacy represents a common challenge, nevertheless DOACs and warfarin were classified as beneficial. Nonetheless, attempts should be undertaken to reduce comedication, and drug–drug interactions should be assessed. Coadministration of platelet inhibitors increases bleeding risk and should be avoided. In conclusion, elderly and frail patients requiring anticoagulation for AF or VTE are at higher risk of adverse outcomes, but also have a higher absolute benefit from OAC. Important practical aspects to improve efficacy and safety in this challenging population are summarized in this overview.