Intern Med J. 2020 Dec 21. doi: 10.1111/imj.15167. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Anticoagulants are recommended to prevent cardioembolic stroke in most patients with atrial fibrillation (AF). Management errors with anticoagulation and use of aspirin instead of anticoagulants have been documented worldwide, especially with vitamin K antagonists. We assessed the rate of anticoagulant mismanagement errors in patients admitted with ischemic stroke, and the clinical correlates with stroke outcomes in the era of non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants.
METHODS: We performed a retrospective analysis of patients admitted with ischemic stroke and history of AF to a single-centre tertiary hospital stroke unit in Melbourne, Australia, between January 2016 and June 2019. We assessed management errors as defined using European Heart Rhythm Association criteria with anticoagulation in the two weeks prior to the index stroke.
RESULTS: A total of 306 patients with AF and ischemic stroke were included, of whom 196 (64%) had management errors. Patients with management errors were older (median age 84 versus 81 years [p=0.002]) and more often female (53% verse 38% [p=0.02]). Of those with management errors, 74 (37%) were not prescribed any anticoagulation despite increased stroke risk and absence of contraindications and 40 (20%) had anticoagulation inappropriately ceased. Mortality at 3-months was 32% in those with management errors, compared to 17% in the appropriately anticoagulated group (p=0.005).
CONCLUSIONS: Inappropriate management of anticoagulants is present in the majority of acute ischemic stroke in the 2 weeks preceding the event and is linked to higher mortality. Improved anticoagulation practice has the potential to substantially reduce stroke rates in patients with AF. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.