Since 2010, the European Society of Cardiology has extended prescription criteria for oral antithrombotic therapy (OAT) in atrial fibrillation (AF). Direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) were upgraded from an IIAa recommendation in 2012 to an IA in 2016. In real-world scenarios, however, OAC prescription is still suboptimal, mainly for DOACs.
To evaluate OAT temporal prescription patterns in a cohort of patients hospitalized with AF in a Cardiology Department.
A retrospective observational study was conducted on a cohort of hospitalized patients in a secondary setting (Trapani, Italy) from 2010 to 2021 with AF as the main or secondary diagnosis. For 4089 consecutive patients, the variables extracted from the Cardiology department database were: Sex, age, time of hospitalization, antithrombotic therapy (warfarin, acenocoumarol, apixaban, dabigatran, edoxaban, rivaroxaban, aspirin, clopidogrel, other antiplatelet agents, low molecular weight heparin, and fondaparinux), diagnosis at discharge and used resources. Basal features are presented as percentage values for categorized variables and as mean +/- SD for categorized once.
From January 1st, 2010 to October 6th, 2021, 25132 patients were hospitalized in our department; 4089 (16.27%, mean age 75.59+/-10.82) were discharged with AF diagnosis; of them, 2245 were males (54.81%, mean age 73.56+/-11.45) and 1851 females (45.19%, mean age 78.06+/-9.47). Average length of stay was 5.76+/-4.88 days; 154 patients died and 88 were moved to other Departments/Structures. AF was the main diagnosis in 899 patients (21.94%). The most frequent main diagnosis in patients with AF was acute myocardial infarction (1973 discharges, 48.19%). The most frequent secondary cardiac diagnosis was chronic coronary syndrome (1864 discharges, 45.51%), and the most frequent secondary associated condition was arterial hypertension (1010 discharges, 24.66%). For the analysis of antithrombotic treatments, the final sample included 3067 patients, after excluding in-hospital deaths, transferred out or self-discharged patients, as well as discharges lacking indications for prescribed treatments. OAC treatment increased significantly (35.63% in 2010-2012 61.18% in 2019-2021, +25.55%, < 0.0001), in spite of any antiplatelet agent use. This rise was due to increasing use of DOACs, with or without antiplatelet agents, from 3.04% in 2013-2015 to 50.06% in 2019-2021 (+47.02%, < 0.0001) and was greater for factor Xa inhibitors, especially apixaban. In addition, treatment with a vitamin K antagonist, in spite of any antiplatelet agent use, decreased from 35.63% in 2010-2012 to 11.12% in 2019-2021 (-24.48%, < 0.0001), as well as any antiplatelet therapy, alone or in double combination, (49.18% in 2010-2012 34.18% in 2019-2021, -15.00%, < 0.0001); and patients not receiving antithrombotic therapy declined with time (14.58% in 2010-2012 1.97% in 2021, < 0.0001).
Real-world patients with AF are elderly and affected by cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular diseases. The percentage of patients on OAT and DOACs increased. These data suggest a slow, gradual guidelines implementation process.

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