Safe use of antithrombotics for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation: Consideration of risk assessment tools to support decision-making

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Journal Article
Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, 2014, 5 (1), pp. 21 - 37
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Clinical guidelines advocate stroke prevention therapy in atrial fibrillation (AF) patients, specifically anticoagulation. However, the decision to initiate treatment is based on the risk (bleeding) versus benefit (prevention of stroke) of therapy, which is often difficult to assess. This review identifies available risk assessment tools to facilitate the safe and optimal use of antithrombotic therapy for stroke prevention in AF. Using key databases and online clinical resources to search the literature (1992–2012), 19 tools have been identified and published to date: 11 addressing stroke risk, 7 addressing bleeding risk and 1 integrating both risk assessments. The stroke risk assessment tools (e.g. CHADS2, CHA2DS2-VASc) share common risk factors: age, hypertension, previous cerebrovascular attack. The bleeding risk assessment tools (e.g. HEMORR2HAGES, HAS-BLED) share common risk factors: age, previous bleeding, renal and liver impairment. In terms of their development, six of the stroke risk assessment tools have been derived from clinical studies, whilst five are based on refinement of existing tools or expert consensus. Many have been evaluated by prospective application to data from real patient cohorts. Bleeding risk assessment tools have been derived from trials, or generated from patient data and then validated via further studies. One identified tool (i.e. Computerised Antithrombotic Risk Assessment Tool [CARAT]) integrates both stroke and bleeding, and specifically considers other key factors in decision-making regarding antithrombotic therapy, particularly those increasing the risk of medication misadventure with treatment (e.g. function, drug interactions, medication adherence). This highlights that whilst separate tools are available to assess stroke and bleeding risk, they do not estimate the relative risk versus benefit of treatment in an individual patient nor consider key medication safety aspects. More effort is needed to synthesize these separate risk assessments and integrate key medication safety issues, particularly since the introduction of new anticoagulants into practice. © 2013, SAGE Publications. All rights reserved.
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