Patients' experiences of atrial fibrillation and non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs), and their educational needs: A qualitative study

Danielle Clarkesmith, Gregory Lip, Deirdre Lane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)
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Purpose: Qualitative research on atrial fibrillation (AF) patient's experiences and perceptions of taking the non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) for stroke prevention is limited. This study explores patients' experiences of dabigatran and their recommendations for development of educational materials.

Patients and methods: Semi-structured individual interviews with 8 warfarin-naive and 8 warfarin-experienced AF patients, using qualitative deductive thematic analysis.

Results: The four main overarching themes included: understanding the diagnosis; reaching a treatment decision; challenges of living with OAC; and patient perceptions of treatment. Patients discussed their shock of diagnosis, and seeking information and support at that time. Narratives suggest patients preferred to be led by the doctor when making treatment decisions, and would often compare dabigatran to warfarin. Patients reported side-effects and challenges with both treatment options, and discussed their beliefs surrounding medications, including misconceptions. In addition to the original framework, two further themes were added: challenges of living with AF, and patient recommendations. Generally patients found AF symptoms distressing, which impacted their quality of life. Patient recommendations included the content and delivery of educational materials and development of tools to help with their understanding of AF and anticoagulation, as well as treatment adherence and anxiety surrounding symptoms and side effects.

Conclusion: Patient recommendations emphasised the need for interventions to relieve anxiety surrounding the diagnosis and possible treatment side effects. Tailored ‘disease-specific’ support is essential to ensure efficacious treatment. This qualitative study highlights the need for patient involvement in the development of educational materials and resources for patients commencing treatment with NOACs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-27
JournalThrombosis Research
Early online date7 Mar 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2017


  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants
  • Patient education
  • Dabigatran
  • Warfarin
  • Anticoagulation


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