Association Between Patient and Physician Sex and Physician-Estimated Stroke and Bleeding Risks in Atrial Fibrillation

Can J Cardiol. 2019 Feb;35(2):160-168. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2018.11.023. Epub 2018 Dec 3.


Background: Physicians treating nonvalvular atrial fibrillation (AF) assess stroke and bleeding risks when deciding on anticoagulation. The agreement between empirical and physician-estimated risks is unclear. Furthermore, the association between patient and physician sex and anticoagulation decision-making is uncertain.

Methods: We pooled data from 2 national primary care physician chart audit databases of patients with AF (Facilitating Review and Education to Optimize Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation and Coordinated National Network to Engage Physicians in the Care and Treatment of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation Chart Audit) with a combined 1035 physicians (133 female, 902 male) and 10,927 patients (4567 female and 6360 male).

Results: Male physicians underestimated stroke risk in female patients and overestimated risk in male patients. Female physicians estimated stroke risk well in female patients but underestimated the risk in male patients. Risk of bleeding was underestimated in all. Despite differences in risk assessment by physician and patient sex, > 90% of patients received anticoagulation across all subgroups. There was modest agreement between physician estimated and calculated (ie, CHADS2 score) stroke risk: Kappa scores were 0.41 (0.35-0.47) for female physicians and 0.34 (0.32-0.36) for male physicians.

Conclusions: Our study is the first to examine the association between patient and physician sex influences and stroke and bleeding risk estimation in AF. Although there were differences in agreement between physician estimated stroke risk and calculated CHADS2 scores, these differences were small and unlikely to affect clinical practice; further, despite any perceived differences in the accuracy of risk assessment by sex, most patients received anticoagulation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications*
  • Atrial Fibrillation / drug therapy
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Hemorrhage / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Male
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / etiology*
  • Stroke / prevention & control


  • Anticoagulants