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Update on Antithrombotic Therapy for Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia in the elderly, affecting 1 in 20 adults over the age of 70 years. Stroke is a major yet highly preventable complication of AF, and the strokes related to AF often are disabling and fatal. Warfarin is the treatment of choice in high-risk patients with AF, and its superior efficacy over aspirin for preventing stroke in these patients is widely recognized. However, several eligible patients with AF are not being treated with warfarin or are being treated inadequately, largely because of concerns regarding the attendant strict monitoring, drug interactions, and risk of major bleeding. As such, alternative antithrombotic therapies that can rival or exceed the efficacy of warfarin, yet compare favorably with its administration and side effect profile, are being sought. One such strategy, the use of a combination antiplatelet regimen, for stroke prevention in high-risk patients with nonvalvular AF was investigated recently in two clinical trials. This article reviews the role of combination antiplatelet regimens in stroke prevention for patients with AF. Other therapies discussed include oral anticoagulation, single antiplatelet therapies, oral anticoagulation plus antiplatelet treatment, direct thrombin inhibitors, and factor Xa inhibitors.

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