Should All Patients With Atrial Fibrillation Receive an Oral Anticoagulant in the Era of Non-Vitamin K Anticoagulants?
Keywords:atrial fibrillation, anticoagulation, vitamin K anticoagulants, bleeding, non-vitamin K anticoagulants, risk stratification schemes, CHA2DS2-VASc score, HAS-BLED score, lone atrial fibrillation
AbstractOral anticoagulants (OAC) decrease the thromboembolic risk of non-valvular atrial fibrillation (AF) at the expense of increased bleeding. Over the years, several risk stratification schemes for both stroke and bleeding risk have been devised, among which lately the respective CHA2DS2-VASc and HAS-BLED scores predominate. However, even when the bleeding risk score is high, the guidelines recommend not to withhold OAC at least for patients with high stroke risk, but to attempt to concomitantly modify the conditions contributing to the high bleeding risk. The CHA2DS2-VASc score has been considered more reliable than other scores in identifying “truly low-risk” patients who do not require OAC, in whom the risk of bleeding may negate the protective effect of OAC. Some have suggested more complex schemes to better identify very low risk patients, but these schemes may lead to more extensive and costly assessments to decide on a relatively simple question, i.e. the need or not for anticoagulation therapy. In the era of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants (NOACs), this may not be necessary any more, and a simple recommendation of providing every AF patient with OAC therapy may turn out to be a more practical and realistic approach, as long as these newer agents remain safe and effective.
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