Combining Clinical and Polygenic Risk Improves Stroke Prediction Among Individuals With Atrial Fibrillation

Circ Genom Precis Med. 2021 Jun;14(3):e003168. doi: 10.1161/CIRCGEN.120.003168. Epub 2021 Jun 15.


Background: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is associated with a five-fold increased risk of ischemic stroke. A portion of this risk is heritable; however, current risk stratification tools (CHA2DS2-VASc) do not include family history or genetic risk. We hypothesized that we could improve ischemic stroke prediction in patients with AF by incorporating polygenic risk scores (PRS).

Methods: Using data from the largest available genome-wide association study in Europeans, we combined over half a million genetic variants to construct a PRS to predict ischemic stroke in patients with AF. We externally validated this PRS in independent data from the UK Biobank, both independently and integrated with clinical risk factors. The integrated PRS and clinical risk factors risk tool had the greatest predictive ability.

Results: Compared with the currently recommended risk tool (CHA2DS2-VASc), the integrated tool significantly improved Net Reclassification Index (2.3% [95% CI, 1.3%-3.0%]) and fit (χ2P=0.002). Using this improved tool, >115 000 people with AF would have improved risk classification in the United States. Independently, PRS was a significant predictor of ischemic stroke in patients with AF prospectively (hazard ratio, 1.13 per 1 SD [95% CI, 1.06-1.23]). Lastly, polygenic risk scores were uncorrelated with clinical risk factors (Pearson correlation coefficient, -0.018).

Conclusions: In patients with AF, there appears to be a significant association between PRS and risk of ischemic stroke. The greatest predictive ability was found with the integration of PRS and clinical risk factors; however, the prediction of stroke remains challenging.

Keywords: atrial fibrillation; biomarkers; genetics; ischemic stroke; risk factor.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / complications
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / genetics
  • Atrial Fibrillation* / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Genome-Wide Association Study*
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke* / etiology
  • Ischemic Stroke* / genetics
  • Ischemic Stroke* / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Assessment