Major thromboembolic complications in patients with atrial fibrillation, secondary to thromboembolism from the left atrium or the left atrial appendage, are a major concern because of their burden of disabling stroke and mortality. To date, non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) are considered the first-line strategy in most patients with atrial fibrillation receiving chronic anticoagulation, as they have major advantages compared with vitamin K antagonists, including minimization of intracranial bleeding risk. Although several studies and post-hoc analyses have provided initial data on the use of NOACs in patients with documented atrial and/or left atrial appendage thrombosis, the benefit of NOACs in these patients has not been fully elucidated. In this review, we reappraise current evidence supporting the use of NOACs in patients with established atrial and/or left atrial appendage thrombosis, discussing potential mechanisms favouring the use of a NOAC-based strategy in this special setting.
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