Risk of stroke and transient ischaemic attack in patients with a diagnosis of resolved atrial fibrillation: retrospective cohort studies

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES

To determine rates of stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) and all cause mortality in patients with a diagnosis of “resolved” atrial fibrillation compared to patients with unresolved atrial fibrillation and without atrial fibrillation.

DESIGN

Two retrospective cohort studies.

SETTING

General practices contributing to The Health Improvement Network, 1 January 2000 to 15 May 2016.

PARTICIPANTS

Adults aged 18 years or more with no previous stroke or TIA: 11 159 with resolved atrial fibrillation, 15 059 controls with atrial fibrillation, and 22 266 controls without atrial fibrillation.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES

Primary outcome was incidence of stroke or TIA. Secondary outcome was all cause mortality.

RESULTS

Adjusted incidence rate ratios for stroke or TIA in patients with resolved atrial fibrillation were 0.76 (95% confidence interval 0.67 to 0.85, P<0.001) versus controls with atrial fibrillation and 1.63 (1.46 to 1.83, P<0.001) versus controls without atrial fibrillation. Adjusted incidence rate ratios for mortality in patients with resolved atrial fibrillation were 0.60 (0.56 to 0.65, P<0.001) versus controls with atrial fibrillation and 1.13 (1.06 to 1.21, P<0.001) versus controls without atrial fibrillation. When patients with resolved atrial fibrillation and documented recurrent atrial fibrillation were excluded the adjusted incidence rate ratio for stroke or TIA was 1.45 (1.26 to 1.67, P<0.001) versus controls without atrial fibrillation.

CONCLUSION

Patients with resolved atrial fibrillation remain at higher risk of stroke or TIA than patients without atrial fibrillation. The risk is increased even in those in whom recurrent atrial fibrillation is not documented. Guidelines should be updated to advocate continued use of anticoagulants in patients with resolved atrial fibrillation.

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