Oral anticoagulation (OAC) substantially reduces stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) at risk for stroke. Whether non-vitamin K-dependent oral anticoagulants (NOACs) improve OAC use in stroke prevention requires investigation.
To investigate temporal trends of OAC use in patients with known AF pre-stroke, we retrospectively analyzed records of 6,803 stroke patients admitted in 2003-2004 (n=1,496), 2008-2010 (n=1,638) or 2013-2015 (n=3,669) to the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Germany. Adjusted regression models were used to identify factors associated with OAC use.
Of 1,209 AF patients (mean age 79 years, 55.9% female) with given indication for OAC according to the CHADS/CHADS-VASc score, 484 (40.0%) were anticoagulated prior to the index stroke, 458 (37.9%) received antiplatelets and 236 (19.5%) had no antithrombotic medication. Compared to 2003-2004 and 2008-2010, there was a higher rate of pre-admission OAC in 2013-2015 (28.2% vs. 49.6%, p<0.001). After adjustment for possible confounders, factors associated with OAC pre-admission were young age (OR 0.74 per decade [95%CI 0.64-0.85]), previous stroke/TIA (OR 1.29 [95%CI 1.00-1.67]), absence of heart failure (OR 0.63 [95%CI 0.47-0.85]) and admission in 2013-2015 (OR 2.45 [95%CI 1.91-3.15]). Prescription of OAC at hospital discharge increased from 2003-2010 compared to 2013-2015 (45.2% vs. 69.5%, p < 0.001).
Irrespective of temporal trends and despite given indication, more than half of all patients with known AF were not anticoagulated prior to the index stroke. In the NOAC era, there was an increase in OAC intake pre-stroke and a higher rate of OAC prescription at hospital discharge in stroke survivors with known AF.

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