BACKGROUND: Women represent a large proportion of patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) and tend to have higher risk of stroke.
AIMS: This study examines gender differences in the utilisation of oral anticoagulation (OAC) and prognosis (i.e. stroke and death) in AF patients in UK general practice.
DESIGN: Retrospective observational study.
METHODS: The Guidance on Risk Assessment and Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation (GRASP-AF) tool was employed to identify AF patients from 11 general practices in Darlington, England.
RESULTS: Two thousand two hundred and fifty-nine AF patients (mean±SD age 76 ± 12 years; 46% female) were identified. Based on CHA2 DS2 -VASc score 95% of women and 90% of men were at moderate-high risk of stroke. Women with moderate-high risk of stroke were treated with OAC less frequently than men (47% vs. 52%, p = 0.006). Overall rates of stroke and all-cause mortality were higher among women than men (p = 0.02 and p < 0.001). However, there was no significant gender difference in these outcomes in patients receiving OAC (p = 0.52 for stroke, p = 0.18 for death). Among people not receiving OAC where indicated, female gender was associated with an increased risk of stroke before (p = 0.01), and after (p = 0.04), adjustment for stroke risk factors. Women not receiving OAC had a higher risk of death on univariate regression analysis (p = 0.002), but not after adjustment for stroke risk factors (p = 0.53).
CONCLUSION: Women with AF are at higher risk of stroke than men without OAC. The gender-related differences in risk of stroke disappear if OAC is used. Despite this, women are more likely not to receive OAC.