Introduction: Atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasing in prevalence and is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. The optimal diagnostic and treatment strategies for AF are continually evolving and care for patients requires confidence in integrating these new developments into practice. These clinical practice guidelines will assist Australian practitioners in the diagnosis and management of adult patients with AF.
Main recommendations: These guidelines provide advice on the standardised assessment and management of patients with atrial fibrillation regarding:
- screening, prevention and diagnostic work-up;
- acute and chronic arrhythmia management with antiarrhythmic therapy and percutaneous and surgical ablative therapies;
- stroke prevention and optimal use of anticoagulants; and
- integrated multidisciplinary care.
Changes in management as a result of the guideline:
- Opportunistic screening in the clinic or community is recommended for patients over 65 years of age.
- The importance of deciding between a rate and rhythm control strategy at the time of diagnosis and periodically thereafter is highlighted. β-Blockers or non-dihydropyridine calcium channel antagonists remain the first line choice for acute and chronic rate control. Cardioversion remains first line choice for acute rhythm control when clinically indicated. Flecainide is preferable to amiodarone for acute and chronic rhythm control. Failure of rate or rhythm control should prompt consideration of percutaneous or surgical ablation.
- The sexless CHA2DS2-VA score is recommended to assess stroke risk, which standardises thresholds across men and women; anticoagulation is not recommended for a score of 0, and is recommended for a score of ≥ 2. If anticoagulation is indicated, non-vitamin K oral anticoagulants are recommended in preference to warfarin.
- An integrated care approach should be adopted, delivered by multidisciplinary teams, including patient education and the use of eHealth tools and resources where available. Regular monitoring and feedback of risk factor control, treatment adherence and persistence should occur.
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