An update on atrial fibrillation: focus on stroke risk reduction strategies

T S Potpara, V Jokic, B Medic, M Prostran, G Y Lip
Minerva Medica 2015 October 23
Atrial fibrillation (AF) currently affects approximately 2% of the general adult population, and the number of patients suffering from AF constantly increases. Although the occurrence of AF rarely poses an immediate threat to patient's survival, the arrhythmia is associated with significant cardiovascular morbidity and mortality mostly resulting from ischemic stroke or systemic thromboembolism, or heart failure. Overall, patients with AF have a 5-fold greater risk of stroke compared to individuals in sinus rhythm, but individual stroke risk depends on the presence of various stroke risk factors, and optimal stroke prevention is essential for AF patients. Several major advances in AF-related stroke prevention have been achieved recently, including the refinements in stroke and bleeding risk assessment with an essential shift in the recognition of AF patients who should be offered oral anticoagulant (OAC) therapy, the advent of non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) which are increasingly used in the 'real-world' setting, as well as the development of non-pharmacological means of thromboprophylaxis in AF patients (e.g., left atrial appendage [LAA] occluding devices). In this review article, we summarize these recent developments in stroke risk reduction strategies and discuss the main principles of decision-making regarding OAC therapy in AF patients.


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