Can oral anticoagulants be stopped safely after a successful atrial fibrillation ablation?
Ablations of atrial fibrillation (AF) have become more widely performed, and the strategy about long-term usage of oral anticoagulants (OACs) after catheter ablation is an important issue, especially for patients without obvious evidences of recurrences. The annual rate of thromboembolic (TE) event after catheter ablation was less than 1%. CHADS2 and CHA2DS2-VASc scores could be used to identify patients at the risk of TE events after ablations who should continue OACs regardless of the status of recurrence. Despite the improvement in understanding of AF and advancement of technology in catheter ablation, the long-term successful rates of paroxysmal and non-paroxysmal AF are around 50% and 30%, respectively. Patients with a high CHADS2 score are at a high risk of recurrence which could continuously occur after the catheter ablation without reaching a plateau. Among the patients with a CHADS2 score of ≥3, 26.9% of the recurrences happened 2 years post catheter ablation. Compared to the episodes of AF before catheter ablation, the AF episodes after ablation procedures are less symptomatic and shorter in duration. Therefore, it may not be safe to stop OACs for patients with a high risk score since the AF episodes are difficult to be detected after ablation procedures, but remain dangerous. In conclusion, the decision about the long-term strategy of OACs should be based on patients’ baseline clinical risk scores, such as CHADS2 and CHA2DS2- VASc scores, rather than the status of recurrence.