How to Reduce Atrial Fibrillation Stroke Risk | News| Loyola Medicine
Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Blood Thinners Can Reduce Atrial Fibrillation Stroke Risk without Frequent Monitoring

MAYWOOD, IL – A new generation of blood thinners can reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, without requiring frequent monitoring and dietary restrictions.
 
But special attention must be given to the patient’s age, kidney function and other factors before prescribing the new medications, according to a review article by neurologists at Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.
 
The report by Rochelle Sweis, DO and José Biller, MD, is published in the journal Current Treatment Options in Cardiovascular Medicine.
 
Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, and the prevalence is increasing as the population ages. In AFib, electrical signals that regulate the heartbeat become erratic. Instead of beating regularly, the upper chambers of the heart quiver and blood doesn’t flow well. Blood clots can form, migrate to the brain and cause strokes. AFib is associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of stroke.

Blood thinning medications decrease the stroke risk by approximately 70 percent. For 60 years physicians have prescribed warfarin (Coumadin®) and other blood thinners known as vitamin K antagonists. These medications have been proven to be effective in reducing the risk of blood clots and strokes. But they require continual monitoring and dose adjustments to ensure the drugs thin the blood enough to prevent clots, but not enough to increase the risk of major bleeding. Patients also must restrict their consumption of foods rich in vitamin K, such as spinach, Brussels sprouts, kale, parsley and green tea.

The new blood thinners include dabigatran (Pradaxa®), rivaroxaban (Xarelto®), apixaban (Eliquis®) and edoxaban (Savaysa®). In the right patient population, the new drugs are a safe and effective option for treating atrial fibrillation, Drs. Sweis and Biller write.

Dr. Sweis is an assistant professor and Dr. Biller is professor and chair in Stritch's department of neurology.

The paper is titled “Practical guide to direct new oral anticoagulant use for secondary stroke prevention in atrial fibrillation.”

About Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health

Loyola Medicine, a member of Trinity Health, is a quaternary care system based in the western suburbs of Chicago that includes Loyola University Medical Center (LUMC), Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, MacNeal Hospital and convenient locations offering primary and specialty care services from 1,877 physicians throughout Cook, Will and DuPage counties. LUMC is a 547-licensed-bed hospital in Maywood that includes the William G. and Mary A. Ryan Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, a Level 1 trauma center, Illinois's largest burn center, a certified comprehensive stroke center and a children’s hospital. Having delivered compassionate care for over 50 years, Loyola also trains the next generation of caregivers through its teaching affiliation with Loyola University Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine and Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Gottlieb is a 247-licensed-bed community hospital in Melrose Park with 150 physician offices, an adult day care program, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park. MacNeal Hospital is a 374-bed teaching hospital in Berwyn with advanced inpatient and outpatient medical, surgical and psychiatric services, advanced diagnostics and treatments. MacNeal has a 12-bed acute rehabilitation unit, a 25-bed inpatient skilled nursing facility, and a 68-bed behavioral health program and community clinics. MacNeal has provided quality, patient-centered care to the near west suburbs since 1919.

Trinity Health is one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic healthcare systems in the nation, serving diverse communities that include more than 30 million people across 22 states. Trinity Health includes 94 hospitals, as well as 109 continuing care locations that include PACE programs, senior living facilities and home care and hospice services. Its continuing care programs provide nearly 2.5 million visits annually. Based in Livonia, Mich., and with annual operating revenues of $18.3 billion and assets of $26.2 billion, the organization returns $1.1 billion to its communities annually in the form of charity care and other community benefit programs. Trinity employs about 133,000 colleagues, including 7,800 employed physicians and clinicians. Committed to those who are poor and underserved in its communities, Trinity is known for its focus on the country's aging population. As a single, unified ministry, the organization is the innovator of Senior Emergency Departments, the largest not-for-profit provider of home health care services—ranked by number of visits—in the nation, as well as the nation’s leading provider of PACE (Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly) based on the number of available programs.