Treatment with anticoagulants to dilute blood are used on elderly people with atrial fibrillation but this medicine is hard to dose and patients must have their blood tested regularly. Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg and Chalmers University of Technology have now devised a new method that improves the accuracy of risk assessments.
Atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, is a very common heart rhythm disturbance that increases the risk of stroke and death. It is usually treated with warfarin, where the dose is calculated by measuring the coagulation of the blood. The dose is increased if coagulation is too quick, and decreased if it is too slow. Patients with unsatisfactory samples are tested more frequently, while satisfactory samples mean that the test interval can be extended.
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In a study involving 20,000 patients in Sweden, Marcus Lind, postdoctoral researcher at the University of Gothenburg's Sahlgrenska Academy and consultant at the NU group of hospitals, tested a new measurement method that assesses far more reliably who is at risk of serious complications and admission to hospital.
"Our method takes account of how blood viscosity goes up and down," says Lind. "This meant that we could establish far more reliably which patients were at risk of a stroke, haemorrhaging or dying."