38% of AFib patients feel ‘trapped’ between risks of stroke, anticoagulants

Atrial fibrillation patients are acutely aware of their five-fold increased risk of stroke, new research from StopAfib.org suggests—and 38 percent report feeling “trapped” between their fear of having a stroke and the major bleeding risks associated with anticoagulants.

But oral anticoagulants are run-of-the-mill for AFib patients, and 95 percent of them believe the protective benefits of the drugs outweigh their bleeding risks, according to a survey spearheaded by StopAfib.org, a patient advocacy website. The Harris Poll, funded by the Boston Scientific Corporation, collected data from 436 atrial fibrillation patients during July 2018.

The survey found more than half of people living with AFib—56 percent—worry “constantly” that a stroke would burden their families, according to a release. Seventy-one percent said reducing their risk of stroke was the most important part of managing their condition.

Mellanie True Hills, the founder and CEO of StopAfib.org, said in the release the survey also found that despite anticoagulants being AFib patients’ go-to treatment, 41 percent of patients rarely or never discuss the risks of oral anticoagulants with their doctors. Forty percent said they wished their physician talked with them more about it.

“The survey results reinforce that being diagnosed with AFib can be life-changing, particularly knowing that it significantly increases the risk of stroke,” Hills said. “The good news is that there are highly effective options for reducing that risk.”

Less-talked about options for managing AFib include device alternatives, she said, which are typically recommended if a patient still struggles to manage their symptoms while on warfarin or other blood thinners.

Hills said it’s notable that while the majority of atrial fibrillation patients said they’d rather take anticoagulants than risk a stroke, 81 percent also said they wished there was an alternative treatment that was as effective as anticoagulants but circumvented their risky side effects.

“My advice for those with AFib is to work with your healthcare providers to identify options that fit your needs and lifestyle,” she said.