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Ann Pharmacother. 2008 Apr;42(4):523-32. doi: 10.1345/aph.1K498. Epub 2008 Mar 11.

Use of anticoagulation in elderly patients with atrial fibrillation who are at risk for falls.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacy Practice, Eugene Applebaum College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI 48201, USA.



To evaluate data addressing use of anticoagulation in elderly patients with atrial fibrillation (AF), in particular those at risk of falls.


Primary literature was identified through PubMed MEDLINE (1966-December 2007) and EMBASE (1980-December 2007) using the search terms anticoagulation, warfarin, aspirin, elderly, falls, older persons, atrial fibrillation, bleeding, education, stroke, and use. Additional references were obtained through review of references from articles obtained.


Clinical studies evaluating warfarin and aspirin efficacy in AF, as well as studies evaluating anticoagulation and falls, elderly patients, and bleeding were considered for inclusion. Selection emphasis was placed on randomized studies of AF and those evaluating anticoagulation and falls.


Uncertainties over the optimal treatment for elderly patients with AF still exist. Variance in the guidelines is reflected in current practice, as some discrepancies are present. Warfarin is underprescribed in elderly patients, with only about 50% of eligible patients receiving therapy. Falls are most often cited as the reason for not using anticoagulants in an elderly patient. Three risk-benefit analyses have been performed, and all found that despite risks associated with warfarin, its benefits outweigh its risks even in patients who fall. Warfarin should be used rather than aspirin or no therapy in elderly patients at risk of falls. Anticoagulation education has been shown to reduce the risk of bleeding in the elderly and should be a vital part of warfarin management.


The risk of falls alone should not automatically disqualify a person from being treated with warfarin. While falls should not dictate anticoagulant choice, assessment and management of fall risk should be an important part of anticoagulation management. Efforts should be made to minimize fall risk.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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