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BACKGROUND: Prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasing, due partly to the ageing population. The Birmingham Atrial Fibrillation Treatment of the Aged (BAFTA) Trial, published in 2007, provided strong evidence of the effectiveness of warfarin at age≥80 years, but the impact on incidence of AF-related stroke and peripheral embolic vascular events is uncertain. METHODS: We studied age-specific incidence and outcome of all AF-related incident strokes and systemic emboli from 2002 to 2012 in the Oxford Vascular Study. RESULTS: Of 3096 acute cerebral or peripheral vascular events, 748 (24.2%) were AF-related. Of the 597 disabling/fatal incident ischaemic strokes, 369 occurred at age ≥80 years, of which 124 (33.6%) were in non-anticoagulated patients with known prior AF. There was no reduction in incident AF-related events after 2007 at all ages (n=231 vs 211; adjusted RR=1.11, 0.91 to 1.36, p=0.29) or at age ≥80 (137 vs 135, RR=1.15, 0.94 to 1.40, p=0.17). Scope for improved prevention at older ages was considerable. Among 208 patients with incident AF-related events at age ≥80 and known prior AF, only 19 (9.1%) were anticoagulated. Of the 189 patients not anticoagulated, 166 (87.8%) had no major disability prior to the event and 167 (88·4%) had a high embolism risk score, of whom 139 (83.2%) were also at low risk of complications. Yet, 125/167 (74.9%) were dead or institutionalised after the event. Potentially preventable embolic events outnumbered warfarin-related intracerebral haemorrhages by about 15-fold (280 vs 19), rising to 50-fold (189 vs 4) at age ≥80 years. CONCLUSIONS: We found no reduction in incidence of AF-related vascular events since publication of the BAFTA trial. A third of all disabling/fatal strokes occur in non-anticoagulated patients with known prior AF.

Original publication




Journal article


J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry

Publication Date





12 - 18


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Anticoagulants, Atrial Fibrillation, Embolism, England, Female, Humans, Incidence, Male, Stroke, Time Factors, Treatment Outcome, Warfarin