Atrial Fibrillation and Avoidable Strokes

The British Heart Foundation defines atrial fibrillation as a common abnormal heart rhythm or arrhythmia. It occurs when the electrical impulses in the top two chambers of the heart become abnormal, causing the chambers to fibrillate. This causes the heart to beat irregularly leading to palpitations.

It is important that those with signs or symptoms of atrial fibrillation consult their GP as soon as possible. The GP will refer the patient on for further investigations which may include an ECG (electrocardiogram), an echocardiogram, a chest x-ray and blood tests.

Following diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, treatment will be given to help control the condition. This may include medication (to treat an abnormality of the heart rhythm), catheter ablation (to block electrical pathways in the heart), cardioversion (to get arrhythmia back to a normal pattern) and having a pacemaker fitted (to regulate the heartbeat).

Whilst atrial fibrillation is not life threatening, it is considered to be a serious condition because it increases the risk of blood clots developing in the heart which may lead to a stroke. It also increases the risk of heart failure and other cardiac problems.

It is therefore crucial that those patients who are assessed as being at an increased risk of stroke are carefully managed with anticoagulant drugs. Novel oral anticoagulants (NOACs) including apixaban, dabigatran, rivaroxaban, and edoxaban, effectively thin the blood and reduce the risk of clot formation. They are preferable to other anticoagulant drugs such as warfarin which require regular blood tests and monitoring. Where the decision is made to commence anticoagulants it is crucial that action is taken as soon as possible.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has recently updated its guidance on the diagnosis and management of atrial fibrillation in adults, including assessing and managing risks of stroke and bleeding.

The specialist medical negligence solicitors at Curtis Solicitors have experience of securing compensation for clients who have suffered avoidable strokes due to a failure to diagnose atrial fibrillation, a failure to prescribe anticoagulants or a delay in administering anticoagulants. In each cases the avoidable strokes severely impacted our clients and their families, preventing them from being able to work and creating additional care, accommodation and equipment needs.

If you wish to discuss a potential clinical negligence claim with our specialist solicitors you can email us, use our online enquiry form, or call us for free on 0800 008 7450.