Enhancing Communication on Stroke Risks in AF

Atrial fibrillation (AF) affects an estimated 2.3 million Americans every year, increasing their risk of stroke by nearly five times that of individuals without AF. To assess general awareness of and attitudes toward the link between AF and stroke, my colleagues and I conducted a survey that was fielded by Harris Interactive on behalf of Boehringer Ingelheim and the National Stroke Association. The national survey—called AFib STROKE (Atrial Fibrillation Survey To Reveal Opinions, Knowledge, and Education Gaps)—was conducted among 507 patients, 150 cardiologists, 150 primary care physicians, and 217 nurse practitioners in the United States in 2010. It’s critical that clinicians capitalize on teachable moments and provide information in writing. More than half (56%) of the patients in the AFib STROKE survey said that AF negatively impacted their lives. While 80% said they wanted to know more about AF and its relationship with stroke, 49% said they didn’t have a conversation with their physician about this link or didn’t remember anything specific about what was discussed when they received their AF diagnosis. About three-fourths of physicians reported having the conversation and educating their patients on the link between AF and stroke, indicating that there’s room for improvement from healthcare providers (see also, Updated Guidelines for Secondary Stroke Prevention). Failing to See the Complete Picture of AF and Stroke While physicians and patients generally may recognize some of the links between AF and stroke, they may not understand the full picture. For example, strokes associated with AF are twice as deadly as non-AF-related strokes, but less than half of healthcare providers surveyed were aware of this fact. About two in...