2014 HRS/NSA Survey of Atrial Fibrillation and Stroke: Gaps in Knowledge and Perspective, Opportunities for Improvement

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The Heart Rhythm Society, in partnership with the National Stroke Association, developed an survey initiative that sought characterize the impact of stroke on AF patients and their caregivers; gaps in knowledge and perspective among physicians and patients; and barriers to effective communication and optimal anticoagulation use.

Abstract

Background

The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is substantial and increasing. Stroke is common in AF and can have devastating consequences. Oral anticoagulants are effective in reducing stroke risk, but are underutilized.

Objective

We sought to characterize the impact of stroke on AF patients and their caregivers; gaps in knowledge and perspective among physicians and patients; and barriers to effective communication and optimal anticoagulation use.

Methods

A survey was administered to AF patients with and without history of stroke, caregivers of stroke survivors and physicians across the range of specialties caring for AF and stroke patients.

Results

While AF patients (499) had limited knowledge about stroke, they expressed great desire to learn more and take action to reduce their risk. They were often dissatisfied with the education they had received and desired high quality written materials. Stroke survivors (251) had poor functional outcomes and often underestimated the burden of caring for them. Caregivers (203) also wished they had received more information about reducing stroke risk prior to their survivor’s event. They commonly felt overwhelmed and socially isolated. Physicians (504) did not prescribe anticoagulants as frequently as recommended by guidelines. Concerns about monitoring anticoagulation and patient compliance were commonly reported barriers. Physicians may underestimate patient willingness to take anticoagulants.

Conclusions

We identified significant knowledge gaps among patients, caregivers and physicians in relation to AF and stroke. Further, gaps in perspective often lead to suboptimal communication and decision making. Increased education and better communication between all stakeholders are needed to reduce the impact of stroke in AF.