Pharmacologic management of atrial fibrillation in the elderly: Rate control, rhythm control, and anticoagulation
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Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most prevalent major arrhythmia in the elderly. It may lead to significant morbidity and mortality through both primary cardiac effects and thromboembolic complications. It is controversial how aggressive physicians should be in their efforts to maintain normal sinus rhythm. Clearly, elderly patients with hemodynamic impairment or other symptoms of AF should undergo attempts to convert AF and maintain normal sinus rhythm, by means of cardioversion and initiation of antiarrhythmic medications. In patients left in AF, rate control with atrioventricular nodalslowing agents is appropriate. The use of anticoagulation in the elderly is often complicated by concerns about excessive bleeding or falls in this population; however, evidence strongly supports the need for anticoagulation with close monitoring even in the extreme elderly. Because of the high prevalence of asymptomatic AF and the high burden of thromboembolism in the elderly, even patients ostensibly maintained in normal sinus rhythm should continue systemic anticoagulation in the absence of contraindications.
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