Dabigatran, a direct thrombin inhibitor, is licensed for the prevention of venous thromboembolism after knee and hip replacement, the prevention of stroke and systemic embolism in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation and for the treatment of acute venous thromboembolism. As dabigatran has a favourable benefit–risk profile, it is being increasingly used. Dabigatran differs from vitamin K antagonists as regards its pharmacological characteristics and its impact on certain laboratory tests, and also in the lack of a direct antagonist that can reverse dabigatran-induced anticoagulation. In emergency settings such as acute bleeding, emergency surgery, acute coronary syndrome, thrombolysis for ischaemic stroke or overdosing, specific strategies are required. A working group of experts from various disciplines has developed strategies for the management of dabigatran-treated patients in emergency settings.