A groundbreaking study has demonstrated the significant benefits of using apixaban, a common blood thinner, for patients with a hard-to-detect form of atrial fibrillation.
This finding has significant implications for stroke prevention in at-risk individuals.
Hidden heart disease and stroke risk
The study, led by Jeff Healey of the Population Health Research Institute, focused on subclinical atrial fibrillation (SCAF), a form of irregular heartbeat that is not usually detected by standard heart tests.
Unlike the more recognizable clinical atrial fibrillation, SCAF often goes unnoticed and increases patients’ risk of strokes and blood clots.
The study, which spanned eight years and included over 4,000 participants in 16 countries, showed that apixaban was effective in reducing these risks.
The effects of apixaban
Apixaban, an oral anticoagulant, reduced the risk of stroke and blood clotting by 37% and the number of fatal or disabling strokes by an impressive 49% in patients with device-detected atrial fibrillation.
Although there was a significant increase in serious bleeding, these events were largely non-fatal and reversible, underscoring the overall safety and effectiveness of the drug.
The results, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and presented at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions, provide a strong argument for considering apixaban in patients with SCAF and stroke risk factors.
Further effects on heart health
The significance of this study goes beyond its immediate results.
Like Dr. As Healey points out, the increasing use of implanted and wearable heart monitors, including consumer devices like the Apple Watch, means more people at risk could be identified and treated effectively.
The research paves the way for a future in which disabling and fatal strokes can be prevented more efficiently in a broader population.
The study was a collaborative effort funded by several prestigious institutions, including the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and the Bristol-Myers Squibb-Pfizer Alliance.
The implications are far-reaching and could potentially change the way doctors treat patients with hidden heart disease and prevent strokes.
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The research results can be found in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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