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New Study for People with A-Fib
Posted in CPR News
Wednesday April 30, 2014

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Better care for patients with atrial fibrillation is the goal of newly updated treatment guidelines for doctors, based on the most recent research and clinical evidence. Working together, several leading heart groups have agreed on the need to update afib patient treatment.

An estimated 2.7 to 6.1 million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation — an irregular heart rate that can lead to blood clots, stroke, and heart failure — and could benefit from this update in patient care.

Changes to Expect

Four afib assessment and treatment changes patients will see are:

  • Improved blood-thinning drugs to prevent stroke-causing blood clots
  • Less aspirin use
  • More use of ablation — a procedure that burns or freezes a portion of the heart to restore normal heartbeat rhythm
  • Better afib risk assessment using a new, more complex risk calculator

Safer Blood-Thinning Drugs

New drug options prevent blood clots in patients with atrial fibrillation and are alternatives to the previous mainstay of treatment, warfarin (Coumadin). Warfarin carries a risk of bleeding in the brain, and patients must have frequent blood monitoring and stick to a restricted diet, which can be difficult. This is because warfarin interacts with vitamin K — found in leafy greens and other foods.

The newer medications are dabigatran (Pradaxa), rivaroxaban (Xarelto), and apixaban (Eliquis) — which work by preventing pooled blood in the heart from clotting. Unlike warfarin, the newer drugs are thought to be safer and easier for patients to use.

"Some of these agents have been shown to offer even more stroke prevention than what is possible with warfarin (Coumadin)," said cardiologist John D. Day, MD, of Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, Utah. Dr. Day reviewed the guidelines as first vice-president of the Heart Rhythm Society.

"In addition, all of the newer blood thinners show that the most feared bleeding risk, namely spontaneous bleeding in the brain, is much less than that of warfarin," said Day, highlighting the patient safety advantages.