Atrial Fibrillation in the Elderly

Margaret C. Fang, Jane Chen, Michael W. Rich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

72 Scopus citations


Atrial fibrillation is increasingly prevalent among older adults. It causes approximately 24% of strokes in patients aged 80 to 89 years. The management of atrial fibrillation is directed at preventing thromboembolism and controlling the heart rate and rhythm. Stroke prevention is most effectively accomplished through administering anticoagulants such as warfarin, although older patients have higher hemorrhagic risk. Cognitive dysfunction, functional impairments, and increased fall risk further complicate warfarin management in elderly patients. The use of risk stratification schemes can help guide the anticoagulation decision, although the benefits of warfarin generally outweigh the risks in most older patients with atrial fibrillation. Pharmacologic rate control has been shown to result in similar outcomes compared with pharmacologic restoration of sinus rhythm and should be the initial therapy for elderly patients. Anti-arrhythmic medications should be selected based on an individual patient's coexisting medical conditions. In symptomatic patients who fail pharmacologic therapy, invasive strategies such as AV nodal ablation may help improve quality of life and symptoms, although such strategies do not obviate the need for antithrombotic therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-487
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2007


  • Anti-arrhythmic
  • Anticoagulants
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Elderly
  • Hemorrhage
  • Rate control
  • Rhythm control
  • Stroke


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