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Nearly A Third of Newly Diagnosed AFib Patients Don't Understand Stroke Risk

Survey shows patients also know little about blood thinners and other treatments

Published November 14, 2016 | Updated December 9, 2016

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DURHAM, N.C. -- Although most patients newly diagnosed with atrial fibrillation say they understand their heart condition, nearly a third of them misidentified a major risk factor for the condition, according to data being presented Nov. 14 at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

In a survey of 1,000 people diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib) within the previous six months, 62.6 percent strongly agreed that stroke is a major risk of the condition. An irregular heartbeat in AFib can lead to blood clots, which can cause stroke.

Still, 32.1 percent of survey respondents also strongly agreed that heart attack was a major risk factor of AFib, which is incorrect.

“This helps us see gaps in knowledge and understanding,” said lead author Emily O’Brien, Ph.D., of the Duke Clinical Research Institute. “We really want to make sure we avoid any misconceptions about the condition and how it’s treated. This provides a good starting point for future interventions and education for patients in this group.”

In questions about treatment, 60 percent of patients strongly agreed that they understood the role of blood thinners to manage their disease. But small proportions strongly agreed that they understood their options for blood thinners (30 percent), drugs that control heart rhythm (16 percent) and ablation, a procedure to destroy tissue in the heart causing abnormal rhythm (11.6 percent).

Survey participants had a median age of 69 years, were 91 percent white and 58 percent male. The patients were from 56 medical facilities around the U.S. that are part of a large outpatient registry called ORBIT-AF.

Researchers were surprised to learn that just 13 percent of respondents said their main source of information about AFib was the Internet, said O’Brien, also an assistant professor of medicine at the Duke University School of Medicine. A large majority (72.6 percent) said their top information source about AFib was their doctor.

“We thought in this day and age, we would see a higher proportion relying on the Internet or family and friends for information,” she said. “But an encouragingly high proportion are relying on their provider.”

In addition to O’Brien, study authors include Larry A. Allen; Sunghee Kim; Peter Shrader; Bernard Gersh; Gerald Nacarelli; Gregg C. Fonarow; Jonathan P. Piccini; and Eric D. Peterson.

The ORBIT-AF Registry is funded by a research grant from Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC. The authors made the following disclosures: O’Brien received research support from Janssen Scientific Affairs, Pfizer, and Bristol-Myers Squibb. Piccini received research support from Boston Scientific and Janssen and is a consultant to Forest Laboratories, Janssen, and Medtronic. Peterson received research support from Eli Lilly & Company and Janssen.

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