A new study has found that many atrial fibrillation patients are not receiving potentially life-saving blood thinners. The study found that about half of patients hospitalized for the heart condition do not receive blood thinners as a treatment. Atrial fibrillation raises the risk of blood clots, which can be reduced with blood thinners. Blood clots can travel to the brain, resulting in stroke.
The researchers analyzed 1.6 million admissions for atrial fibrillation over the course of five years and found that only 46 percent of discharged patients received blood thinners.
Coauthor Dr. Sean Pokorney explained, “This low rate of [blood thinner] use in hospitalized patients highlights an important opportunity to improve care in atrial fibrillation patients.”
All the participants had a stroke risk of two or higher, meaning that blood thinners would be a useful mode of treatment to reduce their stroke risk, and yet a little bit over half never received such treatment.
Dr. Pokorney added, “However, in certain cases, it may not be safe for patients with a high stroke risk score to take blood thinners because of complications that could arise. Still, we think 50 percent [of patients on blood thinners] is too low and that there are thousands of preventable strokes happening in the United States each year because of the low rates of [blood thinner] usage.”
The low usage of blood thinners could be explained by poor understanding of the condition and the risk of stroke, concerns about using medications in these patients, and the belief among healthcare providers that use of the drugs is an outpatient, rather than an inpatient, issue.