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Predictors of Thromboembolism in Atrial Fibrillation: I. Clinical Features of Patients at Risk

The Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation Investigators*
[+] Article and Author Information

Grant Support: By grant R01-NS-24224 from the Division of Stroke and Trauma, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Requests for Reprints: Lesly A. Pearce, MS, SPAF Statistical Coordinating Center, Statistics & Epidemiology Research Corporation, 1107 NE 45th Street, Suite 520, Seattle, WA 98105.


*For a list of participating investigators, see end of text.


© 1992 American College of PhysiciansAmerican College of Physicians


Ann Intern Med. 1992;116(1):1-5. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-116-1-1
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Objective: To identify those patients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation who are at high risk and those at low risk for arterial thromboembolism.

Design: Cohort study of patients assigned to placebo in a randomized clinical trial.

Setting: Five hundred sixty-eight inpatients and outpatients with nonrheumatic atrial fibrillation assigned to placebo therapy at 15 U.S. medical centers from 1987 to 1989 in the Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation study. Patients were followed for a mean of 1.3 years.

Measurements: Clinical variables were assessed at study entry and correlated with subsequent ischemic stroke and systemic embolism by multivariate analysis.

Main Results: Recent (within 3 months) congestive heart failure, a history of hypertension, and previous arterial thromboembolism were each significantly and independently associated with a substantial risk for thromboembolism (> 7% per year; P ≤ 0.05). The presence of these three independent clinical predictors (recent congestive heart failure, history of hypertension, previous thromboembolism) defined patients with rates of thromboembolism of 2.5% per year (no risk factors), 7.2% per year (one risk factor), and 17.6% per year (two or three risk factors). Nondiabetic patients without these risk factors, comprising 38% of the cohort, had a low risk for thromboembolism (1.4% per year; 95% Cl, 0.05% to 3.7%). Patients without clinical risk factors who were under 60 years of age had no thromboembolic events.

Conclusion: Patients with atrial fibrillation at high risk (> 7% per year) and low risk (< 3% per year) for thromboembolism can be identified by readily available clinical variables.

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