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Stroke Research and Treatment
Volume 2011, Article ID 607852, 23 pages
Review Article

Antithrombotic Medication for Cardioembolic Stroke Prevention

1Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques de Bellvitge (IDIBELL), Hospital Universitari de Bellvitge, L'Hospitalet de Llobregat, 08907 Barcelona, Spain
2Department of Neurology, Hospital Sant Joan de Déu de Manresa (Fundació Althaia), Catalonia, 08243 Manresa, Spain
3Department of Neurology, Cerebrovascular Diseases Unit, Hospital Universitari Mútua de Terrassa, Catalonia, 08227 Terrassa, Spain
4Cerebrovascular Division, Department of Neurology, Hospital Universitari Sagrat Cor, University of Barcelona, C/Viladomat 288, Catalonia, 08029 Barcelona, Spain

Received 6 July 2010; Revised 2 March 2011; Accepted 27 March 2011

Academic Editor: Stefano Ricci

Copyright © 2011 M. Àngels Font et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Embolism of cardiac origin accounts for about 20% of ischemic strokes. Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation is the most frequent cause of cardioembolic stroke. Approximately 1% of population is affected by atrial fibrillation, and its prevalence is growing with ageing in the modern world. Strokes due to cardioembolism are in general severe and prone to early recurrence and have a higher long-term risk of recurrence and mortality. Despite its enormous preventive potential, continuous oral anticoagulation is prescribed for less than half of patients with atrial fibrillation who have risk factors for cardioembolism and no contraindications for anticoagulation. Available evidence does not support routine immediate anticoagulation of acute cardioembolic stroke. Anticoagulation therapy's associated risk of hemorrhage and monitoring requirements have encouraged the investigation of alternative therapies for individuals with atrial fibrillation. New anticoagulants being tested for prevention of stroke are low-molecular-weight heparins (LMWH), unfractionated heparin, factor Xa inhibitors, or direct thrombin inhibitors like dabigatran etexilate and rivaroxaban. The later exhibit stable pharmacokinetics obviating the need for coagulation monitoring or dose titration, and they lack clinically significant food or drug interaction. Moreover, they offer another potential that includes fixed dosing, oral administration, and rapid onset of action. There are several concerns regarding potential harm, including an increased risk for hepatotoxicity, clinically significant bleeding, and acute coronary events. Therefore, additional trials and postmarketing surveillance will be needed.