Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke Prevention

Atrial Fibrillation and Strokes

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Do you care for patients with atrial fibrillation? Then you need to know that this heart condition increases the risk of dangerous blood clots. It’s also important to understand how medications that prevent clotting can increase other risk factors. Atrial fibrillation is a serious medical condition, but treatments vary among patients depending on a variety of health-related concerns.

In a recent article for JAMA, Julia R. Berian, MD and Edward H. Livingston, MD explain how atrial fibrillation disrupts the normal flow of blood in the heart. Blood that fails to flow smoothly can form clots, and clots can be carried to other parts of the body. This problem, thromboembolism, is especially dangerous if a blood clot decreases or blocks blood flow to the brain and causes ischemic stroke.

Medications that prevent clotting can increase other risk factors

Blood-thinning medications can reduce the risk of blood clots, but anticoagulants may introduce other risks. If the patient falls or is cut, bleeding won’t stop normally. Some blood-thinning medications are not appropriate for patients with kidney problems. Medical conditions such as coronary artery diseases can require patients to take blood-thinners in combination with heart medications.

Importantly, blood thinning medications can increase the risk of internal bleeding. Sudden, massive bleeding into the digestive tract can result in a rapid pulse and loss of blood pressure. Slower rates of bleeding can cause abdominal pain or shortness of breath. Bleeding inside the head, hemorrhagic stroke, is also a potential risk associated with blood thinners.

Atrial fibrillation is a serious condition, but medical treatments such as blood thinners can introduce new risks. To prevent strokes and provide the best level of care, healthcare professionals must evaluate each patient’s entire medical condition.

Follow-up care is important

There are new anticoagulants now that require less frequent blood work. Are you familiar with them? If you have atrial fibrillation, recognize that it is dangerous and close follow-up with a cardiologist is important to lower your stroke risk.

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