Atrial fibrillation (AF) is by the far the most common cardiac rhythm disturbance encountered in clinical practice. It is associated with significant morbidity and mortality and has potentially lifelong implications in terms of therapy and complications. This disease is more commonly seen now given the increased life expectancy and the remarkable advances made in health care. The already at-risk older adult population is particularly vulnerable to complications from AF, especially embolic cerebrovascular events. This article reviews the evidence-based management of AF with a particular focus on the older adult population.
Key words: atrial fibrillation, older adults, stroke, rate control, rhythm control, stroke prophylaxis, anticoagulation.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common clinically significant cardiac arrhythmia worldwide, with an estimated prevalence of 0.4% in the general population. Despite recent advances in our understanding of the mechanism and consequences of AF, effective therapy for patients with AF remains difficult in many patients. Antiarrhythmic drug therapy includes control of ventricular rate as well as restoration and maintenance of sinus rhythm. The risks and benefits of each treatment modality must be assessed according to each individual patient’s circumstances. Anticoagulation for stroke prevention is a critical component of AF management that is currently underprescribed. Anticoagulation with vitamin K antagonists, such as warfarin, remains the treatment of choice for preventing stroke and cardio embolism. The oral direct thrombin inhibitor ximelagatran has the potential to favourably influence the management of patients with AF by maximizing the potential of anticoagulation for stroke prevention.
Key words: atrial fibrillation, anticoagulation, rate control, warfarin, ximelagatran, antiarrhythmic.
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