Atrial fibrillation in patients with first-ever stroke: frequency, antithrombotic treatment before the event and effect on clinical outcome

M Paciaroni, G Agnelli, V Caso, M Venti, P Milia, G Silvestrelli, L Parnetti, S Biagini
Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis: JTH 2005, 3 (6): 1218-23

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSES: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an independent risk factor for stroke. The aims of this study were to assess: (i) the frequency of known or unknown AF in patients admitted to the hospital for a first-ever ischemic stroke and whether AF is associated with an adverse outcome at discharge (death or disability); (ii) the rates and determinants for the use of antithrombotic agents before stroke in patients with known AF and the adherence to the current treatment guidelines; and (iii) whether the lack of adherence to the current guidelines is associated with adverse outcome at discharge.

METHODS: Consecutive patients with acute first-ever stroke admitted to an individual Stroke Unit between January 2000 to December 2003, were included in the study. Twelve-lead electrocardiogram (ECG) was performed in all patients on admission. Functional outcome was measured at discharge according to modified Rankin Score.

RESULTS: A total of 1549 patients were included in the study: 238 patients (15.4%) were known to have AF and 76 (4.9%) were diagnosed with AF (unknown) on ECG performed on admission. At discharge 91 patients (5.9%) had died and 605 patients (39.0%) had died or were functionally dependent. Multivariate analysis showed that AF on admission was correlated with mortality or disability (OR = 1.58, 95% CI 1.09-2.30, P = 0.015). Before stroke, 124 out of 238 patients with known AF (52.1%) were not on antithrombotic therapy, 83 (34.9%) were receiving antiplatelet and 31 (13.0%) anticoagulant treatment. Previous transient ischemic attack, history of ischemic heart disease and hyperlipidemia were associated with the use of antithrombotic therapy. Only 24 out of 114 patients on antithrombotic treatment on admission were adequately treated according to the current guidelines. Of the adequately treated patients, 41.7% died or were disabled at discharge respect to 52.3% of the patients non-adequately treated (RR = 0.80, 95% CI 0.48-1.30).

CONCLUSIONS: AF (on history or new diagnosis) was present in 20.3% of the patients with first-ever stroke admitted to a Stroke Unit and it was associated with increased mortality or disability. Only 10% of patients with known AF were previously receiving an adequate antithrombotic treatment according to current guidelines.

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