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Circ Cardiovasc Qual Outcomes. 2011 Jan 1;4(1):14-21. doi: 10.1161/CIRCOUTCOMES.110.958108. Epub 2010 Dec 7.

Moving the tipping point: the decision to anticoagulate patients with atrial fibrillation.

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  • 1Division of General Internal Medicine and the Center for Clinical Effectiveness, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45267-0535, USA.



The rate of ischemic stroke associated with traditional risk factors for patients with atrial fibrillation has declined over the past 2 decades. Furthermore, new and potentially safer anticoagulants are on the horizon. Thus, the balance between risk factors for stroke and benefit of anticoagulation may be shifting.


The Markov state transition decision model was used to analyze the CHADS(2) score, above which anticoagulation is preferred, first using the stroke rate predicted for the CHADS(2) derivation cohort, and then using the stroke rate from the more contemporary AnTicoagulation and Risk Factors In Atrial Fibrillation cohort for any CHADS(2) score. The base case was a 69-year-old man with atrial fibrillation. Interventions included oral anticoagulant therapy with warfarin or a hypothetical "new and safer" anticoagulant (based on dabigatran), no antithrombotic therapy, or aspirin. Warfarin is preferred above a stroke rate of 1.7% per year, whereas aspirin is preferred at lower rates of stroke. Anticoagulation with warfarin is preferred even for a score of 0 using the higher rates of the older CHADS(2) derivation cohort. Using more contemporary and lower estimates of stroke risk raises the threshold for use of warfarin to a CHADS(2) score ≥2. However, anticoagulation with a "new, safer" agent, modeled on the results of the Randomized Evaluation of Long-Term Anticoagulation Therapy trial of dabigatran, leads to a lowering of the threshold for anticoagulation to a stroke rate of 0.9% per year.


Use of a more contemporary estimate of stroke risk shifts the "tipping point," such that anticoagulation is preferred at a higher CHADS(2) score, reducing the number of patients for whom anticoagulation is recommended. The introduction of "new, safer" agents, however, would shift the tipping point in the opposite direction.

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