Usefulness of Long-Term Anticoagulation After Catheter Ablation of Atrial Fibrillation.

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Although atrial fibrillation (AF) is strongly associated with stroke, previous studies have shown suboptimal use of anticoagulation (AC). In particular, there is a lack of data on the long-term use of AC after AF catheter ablation. We followed up patients 1 to 5 years out from catheter ablation at the Johns Hopkins Hospital (JHH) to assess their long-term use of AC. We sent a survey to patients from the JHH AF database who underwent an AF catheter ablation between 01/01/2014 and 03/31/2018. Patients were asked whether they were still on AC, if they thought the ablation was successful in controlling AF symptoms and whether they had follow-up rhythm monitoring. Replies were compared with risk scores and demographic data from the electronic medical record. We sent the survey to 628 patients in the database meeting our inclusion criteria, and we received 289 responses. The average age of patients was 67 ± 10 with a median CHA2DS2-VASc of 2 and a median follow-up of 3.6 years. Overall, 81.6% of patients with a CHA2DS2-VASc >2 reported taking AC. Use of AC was positively correlated with a higher CHA2DS2-VASc score (p = 0.012) and older age (p = 0.028), but negatively correlated with a successful ablation (p = 0.040). The most common reason (50.0%) for not being on AC was that doctors were recommending stopping it after a successful ablation. In general, higher risk patients (older, higher CHA2DS2-VASC score) were more likely to remain on AC. However, patients who self-reported a successful ablation were less likely to remain on AC. There may be many patients who can tolerate AC, but are recommended to stop due to a successful ablation. It is still debated how successful AF ablation affects stroke risk. In conclusion, there is considerable variation in the long-term management of AC after an ablation, but for the present, it seems prudent to continue AC based on stroke risk scores until more definite data are available.

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