Antithrombotic Therapy for Symptomatic Peripheral Arterial Disease: A Systematic Review and Network Meta-Analysis

Loes H Willems*, Dominique P M S M Maas, Kees Kramers, Michel M P J Reijnen, Niels P Riksen, Hugo Ten Cate, Rozemarijn J van der Vijver-Coppen, Gert J de Borst, Barend M W Mees, Clark J Zeebregts, Gerjon Hannink, Michiel C Warlé

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


BACKGROUND: High-quality evidence from trials directly comparing single antiplatelet therapies in symptomatic peripheral arterial disease (PAD) to dual antiplatelet therapies or acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) plus low-dose rivaroxaban is lacking. Therefore, we conducted a network meta-analysis on the effectiveness of all antithrombotic regimens studied in PAD.

METHODS: A systematic search was conducted to identify randomized controlled trials. The primary endpoints were major adverse cardiovascular events (MACE) and major bleedings. Secondary endpoints were major adverse limb events (MALE) and acute limb ischaemia (ALI). For each outcome, a frequentist network meta-analysis was used to compare relative risks (RRs) between medication and ASA. ASA was the universal comparator since a majority of studies used ASA as in the reference group.

RESULTS: Twenty-four randomized controlled trials were identified including 48,759 patients. With regard to reducing MACE, clopidogrel [RR 0.78, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.66-0.93], ticagrelor (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.65-0.97), ASA plus ticagrelor (RR 0.79, 95% CI 0.64-0.97), and ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban (RR 0.84, 95% CI 0.76-0.93) were more effective than ASA, and equally effective to one another. As compared to ASA, major bleedings occurred more frequently with vitamin K antagonists, rivaroxaban, ASA plus vitamin K antagonists, and ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban. All regimens were similar to ASA concerning MALE, while ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban was more effective in preventing ALI (RR 0.67, 95% CI 0.55-0.80). Subgroup analysis in patients undergoing peripheral revascularization revealed that ≥ 3 months after intervention, evidence of benefit regarding clopidogrel, ticagrelor, and ASA plus ticagrelor was lacking, while ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban was more effective in preventing MACE (RR 0.87, 95% CI 0.78-0.97) and MALE (RR 0.89, 95% CI 0.81-0.97) compared to ASA. ASA plus clopidogrel was not superior to ASA in preventing MACE ≥ 3 months after revascularization. Evidence regarding antithrombotic treatment strategies within 3 months after a peripheral intervention was lacking.

CONCLUSION: Clopidogrel, ticagrelor, ASA plus ticagrelor, and ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban are superior to ASA monotherapy and equally effective to one another in preventing MACE in PAD. Of these four therapies, only ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban provides a higher risk of major bleedings. More than 3 months after peripheral vascular intervention, ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban is superior in preventing MACE and MALE compared to ASA but again at the cost of a higher risk of bleeding, while other treatment regimens show non-superiority. Based on the current evidence, clopidogrel may be considered the antithrombotic therapy of choice for most PAD patients, while in patients who underwent a peripheral vascular intervention, ASA plus low-dose rivaroxaban could be considered for the long-term (> 3 months) prevention of MACE and MALE.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1287-1302
Number of pages16
Issue number12
Early online date23 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022

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