Anticoagulation in Patients Aged ≥75 years with Atrial Fibrillation: Role of Novel Oral Anticoagulants
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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an important cause of preventable, disabling stroke and is increasingly prevalent with advancing age. As life expectancies increase around the world, AF-related stroke is a growing global public health concern. Most AF patients are elderly (≥75 years old) and increasing age is a consistent independent risk factor for AF-associated stroke. Warfarin anticoagulation is highly effective for stroke prevention in AF patients, but is underutilized especially in the elderly. Although elderly patients are at increased risk of hemorrhage with oral anticoagulants, the benefit for ischemic stroke reduction exceeds the risk of hemorrhage for most elderly patients. Consequently, age alone should not be considered a contraindication for anticoagulation. Novel oral anticoagulants such as dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban are at least as effective as warfarin in preventing strokes in patients with AF. Relative to warfarin, these novel agents reduce the risk of intracranial hemorrhage, the most devastating complication of anticoagulation therapy in elderly AF patients. The novel oral anticoagulants are especially appealing for stroke prevention in elderly patients with AF.