Purpose of review
Oral anticoagulation (OAC) remains the mainstay for prevention of ischaemic stroke in atrial fibrillation. This article reviews the latest evidence and development of new oral anticoagulants for the prevention of ischaemic stroke, as well as bleeding risk assessment, mitigation and management.
Decision-making for stroke prevention has evolved towards the initial identification of ‘low-risk’ patients who do not need any antithrombotic therapy. Subsequent to this step, patients with at least 1 stroke risk factor can be offered effective stroke prevention, which is OAC. There is increased morbidity and mortality amongst warfarin users, if time in therapeutic range is poor. New oral anticoagulants (such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban, apixaban and edoxaban) offer relative efficacy, safety and convenience compared to warfarin, in relation to stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation. Bleeding risk can be assessed by HAS-BLED score, whereas the new SAMe-TT2R2 score can predict the patient's suitability for vitamin K antagonists.
The landscape for stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation has greatly changed. It is no longer a question of ‘if we treat’ but more of ‘how to treat’, as the presence of one or more stroke risk factors in atrial fibrillation confers a risk of fatal and devastating strokes. OAC use, whether as well controlled vitamin K antagonists or nonvitamin K antagonists oral anticoagulant, will reduce the burden of stroke in atrial fibrillation.