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Impact of oral anticoagulation in patients with atrial fibrillation at very low thromboembolic risk
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  • Published on:
    Low thromboembolic risk does not necessarily rule out risk of complications of undiagnosed coexisting high-grade carotid artery stenosis

    Regardless of the conclusions of the authors regrading thromboembolic risk(1), atrial fibrillation patients with CHA2DS2 Vasc score of zero or 1 cannot be pronounced to be at truly low risk of stroke unless coexisting high-grade carotid artery stenosis(CAS) has been ruled out. According to one study, among patients with nonvalvular atrial fibrillation(NVAF) who are older than 70 years, the frequency of high grade carotid stenosis(stenosis of 50% or more) is 12% in men and 11% in women(2). High-grade CAS, in turn, is an important risk factor for stroke. Potentially modifiable risk factors for CAS-related stroke include smoking, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and hyperlipidaemia(3). According to an observational study of subjects with asymptomatic high-grade CAS, progression of the severity of CAS can be mitigated by optimally controlling those risk factors(4). Accordingly, the management of NVAF subjects with CHA2DS2 Vasc score of zero or 1 should include screening for CAS, and optimal control of hypertension, diabetes, and low density lipoprotein levels, over and above cessation of smoking, in the event of a diagnosis of coexisting high-grade CAS. There is also a diagnostic advantage from awareness of the coexistence of high-grade CAS in a patients with zero or 1 CHA2DS2 Vasc score. If such a patient experiences an ischaemic stroke characterised by a cerebral infarct ipsilateral to the high-grade CAS the appropriate management would be prompt prescription o...

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    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.