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Heart Rhythm. 2007 Mar;4(3 Suppl):S34-9. Epub 2006 Dec 6.

Anticoagulation in atrial fibrillation: a contemporary viewpoint.

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  • 1Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, University of Calgary, and Calgary Health Region, Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Anticoagulation therapy in patients with atrial fibrillation is important. This review consists of three parts: chronic anticoagulation, anticoagulation for cardioversion, and a brief comment on anticoagulation around the time of left atrial radiofrequency ablation. The risk stratification scheme of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association/European Society of Cardiology (ACC/AHA/ESC) guidelines for chronic anticoagulation is briefly reviewed. Although there are several other similar schemes, they are not identical. The key point is the balance between benefit and risk. Some emerging controversies are outlined. Two specific questions explored are: is well-controlled hypertension a risk factor, and does paroxysmal atrial fibrillation confer the same risk as continuous atrial fibrillation? Differences in the risk of bleeding while taking a vitamin K antagonist noted in recent compared with older data are discussed. Risk of bleeding in the elderly and combined antithrombotic therapy with a vitamin K antagonist and an antiplatelet agent in high-risk patients are briefly discussed. Recent failures of studies attempting to find a suitable alternative to vitamin K antagonists are outlined. The treatment guidelines for anticoagulation for cardioversion are briefly reviewed. The risk of thromboembolism according to international normalized ratio and use of low-molecular-weight heparin as an alternative to warfarin are discussed. Anticoagulation before and after left atrial radiofrequency ablation is empirical, and long-term anticoagulation seems advisable for high risk patients at the present time. The two most pressing needs for further investigation are (1) clarification, simplification, and consolidated of risk stratification schemes and treatment recommendations and (2) discovery of alternatives to warfarin.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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