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Atrial Fibrillation May Double Risk for 'Silent Strokes'

Finding might explain link between atrial fibrillation, poorer thinking and memory

TUESDAY, Nov. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Atrial fibrillation (AF) may more than double the risk of silent cerebral infarction (SCI), a new review suggests. The report was published in the Nov. 4 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Patients with atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of developing silent strokes," review author Shadi Kalantarian, M.D., M.P.H., a resident at the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., told HealthDay. Previous studies have found that silent strokes are associated with a more than three-fold increase in the risk for symptomatic stroke and a two-fold increase in the risk for dementia, she said.

For the study, Kalantarian and colleagues reviewed 11 previously published reports that looked at the association between atrial fibrillation and SCI in a total of 5,317 patients. The researchers found that AF was associated with SCIs in patients with no history of symptomatic stroke (odds ratio, 2.62), independent of AF type (paroxysmal versus persistent). When the analysis was restricted to studies that met at least 70 percent of the maximum possible quality score, the results did not change significantly (odds ratio, 3.06).

"The higher prevalence of silent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation may put this population at a higher risk for mental impairment, future stroke and disability," Kalantarian said.

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