Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) offer clinical advantages over warfarin, such as minimal medication and food interactions and fixed dosing without the need for routine monitoring of coagulation status. As with all anticoagulants, bleeding, either spontaneous or provoked, is the most common complication. The long-term use of these drugs is increasing, and there is a crucial need for emergency medicine service professionals to understand the optimal management of associated bleeding. This review aims to describe the indications and pharmacokinetics of available DOACs; to discuss the risk of bleeding; to provide a treatment algorithm to manage DOAC-associated emergency bleeding; and to discuss future directions in bleeding management, including the role of specific reversal agents, such as the recently approved idarucizumab for reversal of the direct thrombin inhibitor dabigatran. Because air medical personnel are increasingly likely to encounter patients receiving DOACs, it is important that they have an understanding of how to manage patients with emergent bleeding.
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