From the Journals

Expert panel updates guidelines on antithrombotic therapy for AF



For patients with atrial fibrillation with at least one risk factor besides gender, oral anticoagulation is the optimal choice of antithrombotic therapy, experts said in a comprehensive, updated guideline.

An illustration of a beating heart ©Thinkstock

The 113-page guideline, published in the journal CHEST®, provides antithrombotic treatment recommendations for atrial fibrillation based on different levels of risk for stroke and in a variety of clinical presentations.

Altogether, the new guidelines highlight 60 key recommendations from the 12-person expert panel, chaired by Gregory Y.H. Lip, MD, of the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences, University of Birmingham (England).

To develop the guidelines, the panel conducted a systematic literature review of relevant articles released since the 2012 publication of Thrombolytic Therapy: American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (9th Edition).

Since that time, “there have been substantial developments in atrial fibrillation thromboprophylaxis, whether with regard to risk assessment, antithrombotic drugs, or non-drug approaches,” panelists said in their report.

The panel graded the quality of the new evidence found in the literature review, and then undertook a consensus development process. Each recommendation and statement required at least 80% consensus to pass.

Their treatment recommendations in the report are focused on three topic areas: stroke and bleeding risk assessment, antithrombotic therapy in general, and antithrombotic therapy in special situations, such as acute coronary syndrome and stenting, chronic atrial flutter, pregnancy, and chronic kidney disease.

Stroke prevention is the main priority in a “holistic approach” to management of atrial fibrillation, the panelists said in the report.

“Many of the risk factors leading to incident AF are also risk factors for ischemic stroke, and the promotion of an integrated or holistic approach to AF management is needed, incorporating stroke prevention, addressing symptoms and risk factor management,” they said.

No antithrombotic therapy is needed for patients who have atrial fibrillation without valvular heart disease, the panelists concluded.

For patients with at least one nongender CHA2DS2-VASc stroke risk factor, oral anticoagulation is recommended over aspirin, aspirin and clopidogrel, or no therapy, they said.

In high-risk patients, including males with two or more CHA2DS2-VASc risk factors and females with three or more, novel oral anticoagulants are recommended over adjusted-dose warfarin, they added.

At each patient contact, patients with atrial fibrillation should receive bleeding risk assessment starting with potentially modifiable risk factors such as uncontrolled blood pressure or excessive alcohol intake, according to the expert panel.

High-risk patients, as indicated by a HAS-BLED score of 3 or greater, should have more frequent and regular follow-up, they said.

The expert panel report concludes with a discussion on practical and patient-centered issues.

“Patient education is essential to provide patients with sufficient information to enable them to make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to take oral anticoagulants, and if they do, which oral anticoagulant they would prefer,” Dr. Lip and his colleagues said in their report.

Dr. Lip disclosed a potential conflict of interest with Boehringer Ingelheim. Expert panel members reported disclosures related to Boston Scientific, Medtronic, St. Jude Medical, Biotronik, MSD, Novartis, Pfizer, Bayer, Servier, Gilead, Bristol-Myers Squibb, AstraZeneca, and others.

SOURCE: Lip GYH et al. CHEST. 2018 Aug 21. pii: S0012-3692(18)32244-X.

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