Assessment of three schemes for stratifying stroke risk in patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation

L A Pearce, R G Hart, J L Halperin
American Journal of Medicine 2000, 109 (1): 45-51

PURPOSE: The risk of ischemic stroke varies widely among patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation, influencing the choice of prophylactic antithrombotic therapy. We assessed three schemes for stroke risk stratification in these patients who were treated with aspirin and who did not have prior cerebral ischemia.

SUBJECTS AND METHODS: Criteria from three schemes of risk stratification were applied to a longitudinally observed cohort of patients with atrial fibrillation who did not have prior cerebral ischemia and who were treated with aspirin alone or aspirin combined with low, ineffective doses of warfarin in a multicenter clinical trial. The ability of the schemes to identify patients at high (>/=6%), low (</=2%), and intermediate annual risks of ischemic stroke was assessed.

RESULTS: During a mean follow-up of 1.8 years, 48 ischemic strokes occurred among 1,073 patients with atrial fibrillation who were taking aspirin (rate = 2.5 per 100 person-years). Each of the three schemes predicted stroke and disabling stroke, and successfully identified patients at low risk (observed stroke rates of 0.3 to 1.1 per 100 person-years), although the fractions of the cohort that were categorized as low risk varied from 14% to 45%. The observed rates of ischemic stroke among patients categorized as high risk ranged from 3.5 to 7.2 per 100 person-years among the stratification schemes. Two schemes considered all patients >75 years old as high risk (observed stroke rate 4.2 per 100 person-years), while the remaining scheme classified one third of patients in this age group as low risk (observed stroke rate 0.6 per 100 person-years).

CONCLUSIONS: When tested in a large cohort of patients with atrial fibrillation who were treated with aspirin, available risk-stratification schemes successfully identified patients with low rates of ischemic stroke, but less consistently identified high-risk patients.

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