Evidence and uncertainties in the management of atrial fibrillation in the elderly

Minerva Med. 2022 Aug;113(4):626-639. doi: 10.23736/S0026-4806.21.07525-X. Epub 2021 Apr 9.

Abstract

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common cardiac sustained arrhythmia, whose incidence and prevalence increase with age, representing a significant burden for health services in western countries. Older people contribute to most patients affected from AF. Although oral anticoagulant therapy represents the cornerstone for the prevention of ischemic stroke and its disabling consequences, several other interventions - including left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAO), catheter ablation (CA) of AF, and rhythm control strategy (RCS) - have proved to be potentially effective in reducing the incidence of AF-associated clinical complications. Scientific literature focused on the three items will be discussed. Practical treatment of older AF patients is presented, including approach and management of patients with geriatric syndromes, selection of the most appropriate individualized drug treatment, clinical indications, and potential clinical benefit of LAAO and CA in selected older AF patients. Older people carry the greatest burden of AF in real world practice. Within a shared decision-making process, the patient centered approach needs to be put in the context of a comprehensive assessment, in order to gain maximal net clinical benefit and avoid futility or harm.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Appendage* / surgery
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / drug therapy
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / therapy
  • Catheter Ablation* / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Stroke* / etiology
  • Stroke* / prevention & control
  • Treatment Outcome

Substances

  • Anticoagulants