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Underutilization of antithrombotic therapy in elderly rural patients with atrial fibrillation.

Flaker GC, McGowan DJ, Boechler M, Fortune G, Gage B. Underutilization of antithrombotic therapy in elderly rural patients with atrial fibrillation. American heart journal. 1999 Feb 1; 137(2):307-12.

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BACKGROUND: Antithrombotic agents are underutilized in elderly patients with atrial fibrillation. In a peer-review audit of antithrombotic use in Missouri, rural patients were given antithrombotic therapy less often than rural patients for unclear reasons. METHODS AND RESULTS: The charts of 597 hospitalized Medicare patients discharged between October 1, 1993, and December 31, 1994, from urban and rural hospitals in Missouri were reviewed. In addition to antithrombotic therapy prescribed at the time of discharge, patient and physician information, relative contraindications to antithrombotic therapy, and risk factors for stroke were identified. Rural and urban patients were similar in terms of age, sex, and risk factors for stroke. At least one stroke risk factor was noted in 87% of rural patients and in 84% of urban patients. Urban patients were more likely to have a relative contraindication to antithrombotic therapy compared with rural patients (66% vs 54%, P = .04) but received antithrombotic therapy more often (58% vs 47%, P = .02). Cardiologists prescribed antithrombotic therapy significantly more often than noncardiologists (69% vs 52%, P = .003). CONCLUSIONS: Elderly rural patients with atrial fibrillation receive antithrombotic therapy less frequently than urban patients despite having a similar high-risk profile and fewer relative contraindications. Primary care physicians prescribe antithrombotic therapy less often than cardiologists, which is one of the reasons for this underutilization.

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