Stroke prevention strategies in patients with atrial fibrillation and heart valve abnormalities: perceptions of ‘valvular’ atrial fibrillation

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The purpose of this European Heart Rhythm Association (EHRA) Survey was to assess the perceptions of ‘valvular’ atrial fibrillation (AF) and management of AF patients with various heart valve abnormalities in daily clinical practice in European electrophysiology (EP) centres. Questionnaire survey was sent via the Internet to the EHRA-EP Research Network Centres. Of the 52 responding centres, 42 (80.8%) were university hospitals. Choosing the most comprehensive definition of valvular AF, a total of 49 centres (94.2%) encountered a mechanical prosthetic heart valve and significant rheumatic mitral stenosis, 35 centres (67.3%) also considered bioprosthetic valves, and 25 centres (48.1%) included any significant valvular heart disease, requiring surgical repair in the definition of valvular AF. Only three centres (5.8%) would define valvular AF as the presence of any (even mild) valvular abnormality. None of the centres would use non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) in AF patients with mechanical prosthetic valves, only 5 centres (9.8%) would use NOACs in patients with significant mitral stenosis, 17 centres (32.7%) would consider the use of NOACs in patients with bioprosthetic valves, and 21 centres (41.2%) would use NOACs in patients with a non-recent transcatheter valve replacement/implantation, while 13 centres (25.5%) would never consider the use of NOACs in AF patients with even mild native heart valve abnormality. Our survey showed marked heterogeneity in the definition of valvular AF and thromboprophylactic treatments, with the use of variable NOACs in patients with valvular heart disease other than prosthetic heart valves or significant mitral stenosis, indicating that this term may be misleading and should not be used.

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