DALLAS, September 4 -- Using a blood-thinning drug to treat people who have an irregular heartbeat is not only medically effective, but also cost-effective, according to a study in this month's Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.
The people who seemed to show the most benefit from taking warfarin, a blood thinner which helps stop blood from clotting, were older individuals who suffer from atrial fibrillation -- an irregular heartbeat which increases a person's stroke risk. The researchers said they believe this finding to be especially important, since people over 75 years old are at highest risk for having a stroke.
"For medical and economic reasons, anticoagulation treatment in the prevention of stroke is justified," says Sara Lightowlers, M.R.C.P., M.Sc., of the department of geriatric medicine, St. Andrew's Hospital, London, England.
"Although older patients are more at risk for problems such as bleeding in the brain, these data show that the treatment is most cost-effective in this group." Atrial fibrillation occurs when the two small upper chambers of the heart quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out when the heart beats, allowing blood to pool and clot. If a piece of the blood clot blocks a blood vessel to the brain, a stroke results. According to the American Heart Association, about 15 percent of strokes occur in people with atrial fibrillation.
The researchers used data collected on about 4,000 people who participated in five different studies which examined the usefulness of blood-thinners to treat people with irregular heartbeats. They found it was far less expensive to the nation's healthcare system to treat people with warfarin and help prevent stroke than it was to not treat and have strokes occur.
For example, in the oldest group of people with atrial fibrillation -- those
over 75 -- it was nearly five times more expensive not to treat patients with
blood-thinning drugs. In th
Contact: Brian Henry
American Heart Association