One-third with common irregular heartbeat don't take blood thinners

January 6, 2017

(HealthDay)—Many people with the heart condition known as atrial fibrillation stop taking the blood-thinning medication that's prescribed to help prevent a stroke, a new study reveals.

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that causes the heart to quiver. This raises the risk of clots and , according to the American Heart Association.

People who've had a medical procedure such as cardioversion (electrical shocks to the heart through electrodes placed on the chest) or ablation (using heat, cold or radio energy to scar heart tissue via catheter or surgery) to help manage their condition were even more likely to ditch their prescribed drugs.

"We don't know if changing the to a normal rhythm, by either cardioversion or ablation, always removes the risk of stroke," said study author Dr. Geoffrey Barnes, a cardiologist at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center.

"It's an ongoing debate, whether to continue the patient on blood thinners after a procedure," Barnes said in a university news release.

The study included more than 700 people with . All had started taking the blood thinner warfarin (brand name Coumadin) between 2011 and 2013.

In less than one year, nearly 37 percent of these people stopped taking the drug, the study found.

The research team also found that more than 54 percent of those who had cardioversion or radiofrequency ablation were off warfarin after one year.

Study participants who didn't have one of these procedures, however, were much more likely to continue warfarin therapy, the study showed. The researchers pointed out that about 30 percent of these people stopped taking the medication, which is still a sizable group not adhering to their treatment plan.

"When we took into account whether the patient had undergone a recent [atrial fibrillation] procedure, the numbers look very different," said Dr. James Froehlich, a study researcher and a Frankel Center cardiologist.

It's unclear why these patients stopped taking warfarin. The researchers speculated the drug's side effects, such as bruising, may play a role. People taking warfarin must also undergo routine blood tests. Some people may stop taking the drug to avoid having to do this, the study authors explained.

"We need to understand why they are stopping warfarin and figure out what other medications might be better adhered to in order to prevent strokes," said Froehlich.

Barnes said more study is needed to learn whether or not are needed to prevent stroke after medical procedures. "We need more data to help us understand what the risk of stroke is after cardioversion or ablation, to inform physician decision-making and guidelines," he said.

Explore further: Medication adherence a problem in atrial fibrillation patients

More information: The American Heart Association provides more information on atrial fibrillation.

Related Stories

Medication adherence a problem in atrial fibrillation patients

January 4, 2017
For patients with atrial fibrillation, the most common form of heart arrhythmia, a main goal of treatment is stroke prevention.

Atrial fibrillation patients are at increased risk of dementia, regardless of anticoagulation use

November 15, 2016
Atrial fibrillation patients who use the drug, warfarin, to prevent harmful blood clots from forming in their hearts to lower risk of stroke are at higher risk of developing dementia than patients who use warfarin for non-atrial ...

Catheter ablations reduce risks of stroke in heart patients with stroke history, study finds

November 13, 2016
Atrial fibrillation patients with a prior history of stroke who undergo catheter ablation to treat the abnormal heart rhythm lower their long-term risk of a recurrent stroke by 50 percent, according to new research from the ...

Trial results for anticoagulants for cardioversion in AF patients published

August 30, 2016
The results of the largest known clinical trial to investigate the use of anticoagulants prior and post cardioversion in atrial fibrillation patients, published in The Lancet, show that non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants ...

Safer drug combination found for patients with high-risk atrial fibrillation

March 6, 2015
Patients with high-risk atrial fibrillation, or AFib, often require one drug to regulate heart rhythm and a second drug to thin their blood and reduce the risk of stroke. A recent study led by a University of Missouri School ...

Most don't need 'bridging' when they stop warfarin temporarily

August 27, 2015
(HealthDay)—Heart patients on the clot-preventing drug warfarin usually have to stop the medication before having surgery. Now, a new study shows they can safely do that without taking another anti-clotting drug—and they ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.