Aspirin Not Effective for Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

In low-risk patients Aspirin significantly increases  a patient’s bleeding risk.In low-risk patients Aspirin significantly increases  a patient’s bleeding risk.

New research suggests that aspirin may not be as effective as previously believed for treating patients with atrial fibrillation. In fact, for patients who had a catheter ablation to lower their risk of stroke, the risks of using aspirin may outweigh the benefits.

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is a common heart condition in which the heart beats irregularly. A-fib affects more millions of people and, if left untreated, the condition can lead to more serious cardiovascular events - such as stroke, blood clots, or even heart failure.

The most common route for treating patients with A-fib is prescribing anticoagulants, or blood thinners. Some people with A-fib may also have a catheter ablation - a medical procedure that uses energy to damage a small part of heart tissue, thus stopping abnormal electrical signals from traveling through the heart.

Some of the risks entailed by cardiac catheter ablation include bleeding or blood vessel damage. On the plus side, the long-term risk of stroke in patients with A-fib who have undergone the surgery is lower than in patients who did not have an ablation, reported.

However, as Dr. Jared Bunch - the lead author of the new research - explains, when patients with A-fib have had an ablation and also have a low risk of stroke, physicians prefer to treat them with aspirin instead of blood thinners to further reduce the risk of stroke.

In the new study, Bunch and his colleagues examine the effect of long-term aspirin use on patients with A-fib who underwent an ablation.

Bunch explains, “What was unknown was if aspirin was a safe and effective stroke prevention treatment after an ablation in lower-risk AF [atrial fibrillation] patients.”

The results of the new study were presented at Heart Rhythm 2017, the Heart Rhythm Society’s 38th Annual Scientific Sessions, held in Chicago.

The study examined 4,124 patients with A-fib over a period of 3 years. Bunch and colleagues found that patients who were prescribed aspirin were significantly more likely to have gastrointestinal and genitourinary bleeding than those who took anticoagulants.

“In both the general and medical communities, aspirin therapy is perceived to reduce risks, it’s easy to prescribe, and it’s available worldwide over-the-counter. This study continues to show that aspirin has little to no benefit for stroke prevention in A-Fib patients and when used in low-risk patients it significantly increases a patient’s bleeding risk.”

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