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Lowering threshold for prescribing anticoagulants to patients with atrial fibrillation would significantly reduce number of strokes.

Bjgp study urges wider use of anticoagulants to prevent stroke
Dr Tim Holt

Researchers writing in this month’s British Journal of General Practice say that lowering the threshold for prescribing anticoagulants to patients with atrial fibrillation would significantly reduce the number of strokes.

Dr Tim Holt from the University of Oxford and colleagues examined the records of  99,000 patients from over 500 UK general practices to see how many people with atrial fibrillation - a major risk factor for stroke - were taking anticoagulant medication. Only about half of at-risk patients were being prescribed anticoagulants. The study suggests that the scoring system commonly used in general practice for assessing risk may be restrictive.

Dr Holt said: “Oral anticoagulation reduces the risk of stroke very significantly in people with atrial fibrillation, but is underutilised: only about half of patients with atrial fibrillation and at risk of stroke receive anticoagulants. Reducing the threshold for anticoagulation would substantially reduce the incidence of disabling strokes in the UK”.

Dr Holt will also be presenting his research at the Society for Academic Primary Care/RCGP annual conference in Glasgow on Thursday 4 October 2012.

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