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Updated Stroke Prevention Guidelines

Updated Stroke Prevention Guidelines

The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA) have updated guidelines on primary stroke prevention based on comprehensive and timely evidence from clinical investigations and research trials. Recommendations are included for controlling risk factors, using interventional approaches to atherosclerotic disease, and antithrombotic treatments for preventing stroke. The guidelines were published in Stroke and are available for free online at http://stroke.ahajournals.org. “One of the most important changes in the AHA/ASA guidelines is that newer anticoagulants can be used as alternatives to warfarin to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF),” says James F. Meschia, MD, FAHA, who chaired the AHA/ASA committee that developed the recommendations. The guidelines note that although some of the new AF drugs are more expensive, they require less ongoing monitoring and therefore represent reasonable options for patients. Another key recommendation from the guidelines is that clinicians are urged to use of statins, along with diet and exercise, to help lower the stroke risk in patients at high risk for experiencing a stroke within the next 10 years. “In addition, the CHA2DS2-VASc is recommended for stratifying the risk for stroke,” says Dr. Meschia. “Patients with a score of 0 on the CHA2DS2-VASc do not require anticoagulants, but those with a score of 2 or higher should receive these therapies.” He adds that patients with a score of 1 on CHA2DS2-VASc can be considered for anticoagulants.   Women & Stroke According to the AHA/ASA, women have higher stroke risks if they are pregnant, use oral contraceptives, use hormone replacement therapy, have migraines, and/or have depression. The guidelines recognize the different risk factors women face throughout their...
The Increasing Burden of Atrial Fibrillation

The Increasing Burden of Atrial Fibrillation

Research suggests that atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common heart rhythm disorder, but the global burden of AF has not been estimated until recently. The World Health Organization (WHO) assesses the global burden of many public health concerns every 20 years through its Global Burden of Disease Project, but AF was not included in 1990 when the project was last conducted. To establish the global and regional prevalence of AF—in addition to its associated incidence and mortality rates—Sumeet S. Chugh, MD, FACC, FHRS, FAHA, and colleagues systematically reviewed nearly 200 population-based studies of AF. Worldwide Findings “The most important metric that WHO established for understanding the burden that a disease imposes on society is disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs),” explains Dr. Chugh. He and his colleagues found that the burden associated with AF, measured in DALYs, increased by nearly 19% in both men and women between 1990 and 2010 (Figure 1). An estimated 33.5 million men and women had AF across the globe in 2010. The estimated age-adjusted, global prevalence rates per 100,000 population increased from 569.5 in 1990 to 596.2 in 2010 for men and from 359.9 in 1990 to 373.1 in 2010 for women. In addition, the overall incidence (Figure 2) and associated mortality rates (Figure 3) increased significantly for both genders during the study period. “AF is not a condition that directly leads to death,” notes Dr. Chugh. “However, it keeps company with many heart conditions that do.” On the Local Level It is well understood that patients are getting older, not only because of the baby boomer generation but also because survival rates among patients who...
Managing AF: A Look at Treating Specialty

Managing AF: A Look at Treating Specialty

About 2.3 million Americans are affected by atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter (AF), a condition that causes 15% of the 700,000 strokes that occur annually in the United States. Anticoagulants like warfarin can help prevent stroke in AF patients, but these therapies can also cause bleeding in some cases. “Prediction tools, such as the CHADS2 score, have been developed to estimate stroke risk and are now recommended by clinical guideline statements,” says Mintu P. Turakhia, MD, MAS. “These guidelines, however, vary considerably in describing how stroke and bleeding risk should be evaluated and integrated into clinical decision making.” Assessing Potential Variations in Warfarin Use It has been suspected that use of warfarin in AF may vary by specialty and over time. In the American Heart Journal, Dr. Turakhia and colleagues had a study published that evaluated differences and trends in warfarin prescription by treating specialty for new AF cases. Using VA data from the TREAT-AF study, the investigators reviewed more than 141,000 participants with newly diagnosed AF in which patients had at least one internal medicine, primary care, or cardiology encounter within 90 days of their diagnosis. The primary outcome was prescription of warfarin. According to results, care of patients with new AF from cardiologists appeared to be associated with a greater likelihood of warfarin prescription when compared with care only from primary care physicians (Table 1), even after adjusting for covariates and a propensity for cardiology care. The observation was also consistent across subgroups of patients, including those who were at lowest risk for bleeding. Furthermore, warfarin prescriptions were more frequently provided to those at highest risk for stroke,...
Heart Rhythm eBook

Heart Rhythm eBook

We are proud to present this monograph comprising several feature articles — including Psychological Distress, Predicting AFib, and Cardiac Rhythm Abnormalities — that are applicable to cardiologists and other healthcare providers. Created with the assistance of key opinion leaders and experts in the field, these articles explore challenges and opportunities in cardiology and strategies to positively change current practices. In  upcoming months, Physician’s Weekly will continue to feature topics that affect cardiologists and other healthcare...
ED Care of AF & Hospital Charges

ED Care of AF & Hospital Charges

The initial management of newly recognized atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter (AF) lasting over 48 hours is generally heart rate control along with anticoagulation to prevent future embolic events. Once rate control is achieved by emergency physicians, decisions on the timing of the rhythm control are often left to admission cardiologists. For cases in which AF duration is shorter than 48 hours, patients are often managed similarly. Recent studies, however, show that many of these patients can benefit from ED cardioversion (EDCV) to achieve normal sinus rhythm with discharge from the ED to home. Potential for Significant Savings In a study published in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, my colleagues and I examined 300 AF patients who came to the ED for care and were screened for timing of symptom onset. EDCV was considered if nursing or physician notes documented onset of AF symptoms within 48 hours of ED presentation in patients younger than 85. The median charges for EDCV patients were $5,460, compared with $23,202 for those admitted with no attempt at cardioversion. Median charges for patients whose final ED rhythm was normal were $5,641; for those remaining in AF, median charges were $30,299. A surprising finding from our study was that the resource savings produced by simply attempting EDCV, regardless of the results, were also significant. Admitted patients remaining in AF following cardioversion attempts still had hospital charges that were $8,628 lower than those admitted with no EDCV attempt. Efficient & Effective The longer a heart remains in AF, the more the atrium becomes conditioned to accept this rhythm. The sooner after the onset of AF...
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