With advancing age, the prevalence of both stroke and non valvular atrial fibrillation (NVAF) is increasing. NVAF in old age has a high embolic potential if not anticoagulated. Oral anticoagulation therapy is cost effective in older people with NVAF due to their high base line stroke risk. The current stroke and bleeding risk scoring schemes have been based on complex scoring systems that are difficult to apply in clinical practice. Both scoring schemes include similar risk factors for ischemic and bleeding events which may lead to confusion in clinical decision making to balance the risks of bleeding against the risks of stroke, thereby limiting the applicability of such schemes. The difficulty in application of such schemes combined with physicians’ fear of inducing bleeding complications has resulted in under use of anticoagulation therapy in older people. As older people (≥75 years) with NVAF are all at high risk of stroke, we are suggesting a pragmatic approach based on a yes/no decision rather than a risk scoring stratification which involves an opt out rather an opt in approach unless there is a contraindication for oral anticoagulation. Antiplatelet agents should not be an alternative option for antithrombotic treatment in older people with NVAF due to lack of efficacy and the potential of being used as an excuse of not prescribing anticoagulation. Bleeding risk should be assessed on individual basis and the decision to anticoagulate should include patients’ views.
Keywords: atrial fibrillation, anticoagulation, older people