Atrial fibrillation, stroke, and acute antithrombotic therapy analysis of randomized clinical trials

Robert G. Hart, Santiago Palacio, Lesly A. Pearce

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Background - Strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) are typically larger, are associated with higher early mortality, and occur in older patients versus strokes in patients with sinus rhythm. Until recently, the value of antithrombotic therapies for acute stroke management has been based on empiric evidence. Summary of Review - We present a critical review of 3 randomized clinical trials testing aspirin, heparin/heparinoid, or both involving 5029 patients with AF and acute stroke. Early recurrent ischemic stroke occurred in about 5% of patients during the 2 to 4 weeks after initial stroke. Data conflict about whether early use of heparin/heparinoid reduced early recurrent ischemic stroke but are consistent regarding its lack of overall benefit on long-term functional outcome. Modest benefits for reduction of early recurrent stroke and functional outcome were associated with aspirin use, based largely on subgroup analysis from a single, large, unblinded trial. Conclusions - No benefit of heparin has been demonstrated for acute stroke patients with AF; whether selected subgroups would respond differently remains to be proven. Aspirin followed by early initiation of warfarin for long-term secondary prevention is reasonable antithrombotic management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2722-2727
Number of pages6
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 1 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Aspirin
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Heparin
  • Stroke
  • Thrombolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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