New guidance issued to prevent more arrhythmia patients having a stroke

18 June 2014        

Doctor using a stethoscope

New guidelines have been released to help better manage the thousands of people with the abnormal heart rhythm atrial fibrillation (AF) and prevent more strokes.

The revised guidance, issued by the Government’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence today, now recommends that people with AF are prescribed an anticoagulant such as warfarin, dabigatran etexilate or rivaroxaban instead of aspirin to reduce their risk of stroke.

Doctors will be advised to use a new tool – the CHA2DS2-VASc – to assess a patient’s risk of stroke in order to determine whether or not they need to be prescribed blood-thinning drugs.

Patients with atrial fibrillation will also be able to use a new Patient Decision Aid to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of different treatment options so they can make more informed choices with their GP.

Atrial fibrillation affects hundreds of thousands of people across the UK and its symptoms can include palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness or feeling faint. However, not everyone experiences symptoms which means it often goes undetected. 

The new NICE guidelines reflect the growing body of evidence that warfarin and anticoagulants are much more effective at preventing stroke than aspirin.


Amy Thompson, our Senior Cardiac Nurse, said: “Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common forms of arrhythmia and a major cause of stroke. However, identifying an abnormal heart rhythm and prescribing the right drugs early on can prevent more strokes from happening.

“The new NICE guidelines reflect the growing body of evidence that warfarin and the newer anticoagulants are much more effective at preventing stroke than aspirin.

“But this does not mean aspirin is not an effective means of preventing heart attacks and strokes in other circumstances. If you are worried about your medicines, talk to your GP."