Stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation

Lancet. 2016 Aug 20;388(10046):806-17. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)31257-0.


Atrial fibrillation is found in a third of all ischaemic strokes, even more after post-stroke atrial fibrillation monitoring. Data from stroke registries show that both unknown and untreated or under treated atrial fibrillation is responsible for most of these strokes, which are often fatal or debilitating. Most could be prevented if efforts were directed towards detection of atrial fibrillation before stroke occurs, through screening or case finding, and treatment of all patients with atrial fibrillation at increased risk of stroke with well-controlled vitamin K antagonists or non-vitamin K antagonist anticoagulants. The default strategy should be to offer anticoagulant thromboprophylaxis to all patients with atrial fibrillation unless defined as truly low risk by simple validated risk scores, such as CHA2DS2-VASc. Assessment of bleeding risk using the HAS-BLED score should focus attention on reversible bleeding risk factors. Finally, patients need support from physicians and various other sources to start anticoagulant treatment and to ensure adherence to and persistence with treatment in the long term.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / chemically induced
  • Medication Adherence
  • Registries
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / prevention & control*
  • Vitamin K / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Warfarin / therapeutic use


  • Anticoagulants
  • Vitamin K
  • Warfarin