Clinical research study| Volume 134, ISSUE 1, P67-75.e5, January 2021

Should We Reintroduce Previous Venous Thromboembolism Into Decision-Making for Anticoagulation in Atrial Fibrillation?



      We aimed to investigate whether history of venous thromboembolism should be considered a prognostic factor for future thromboembolic events in patients with atrial fibrillation.


      This was a nationwide cohort study of patients with incident atrial fibrillation from 2000-2017, defined and characterized using Danish health registries. Cox regression analyses were used to calculate hazard ratios and 95% confidence intervals for the outcomes ischemic stroke or systemic embolism, and ischemic stroke, systemic embolism, or venous thromboembolism, according to history of venous thromboembolism. Analyses were adjusted for components of the CHA2DS2-VASc score and time-varying use of oral anticoagulation.


      The study included 246,313 patients with incident atrial fibrillation, of which 6,516 (2.6%) had previous venous thromboembolism. Patients with previous venous thromboembolism carried an overall similar adjusted risk of ischemic stroke or systemic embolism compared with patients without previous venous thromboembolism (reference; hazard ratio 0.99; 95% confidence interval, 0.90-1.09). When analyzing a composite thromboembolic outcome of ischemic stroke, systemic embolism, or venous thromboembolism, patients with previous venous thromboembolism were at high-risk (hazard ratio 1.76; 95% confidence interval, 1.64-1.90). Similar conclusions were drawn when stratifying by venous thromboembolism subtype, and when restricting to patients with low CHA2DS2-VASc scores or the non-anticoagulated subset of the study population.


      Patients with atrial fibrillation and previous venous thromboembolism carried similar risk of ischemic stroke or systemic embolism compared with patients with atrial fibrillation without previous venous thromboembolism. Nonetheless, patients with previous venous thromboembolism remain a high-risk population due to an excess risk of future venous thromboembolism. Patients and physicians should keep this excess thromboembolic risk in mind when weighing the expected risks and benefits of oral anticoagulation in patients with atrial fibrillation.


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