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By Anita Holz, MSN, CRNP, Executive Director, Cardiometabolism Clinical Development and Medical Affairs, Boehringer Ingelheim

An experience in the emergency room can be one of the scariest in a person’s life. Perhaps the most frightening part is the uncertainty — not knowing what’s going to come next. Particularly for the growing population of older adults, many of whom manage chronic heart conditions but still try to stay active, having conversations with their healthcare providers (HCPs) to make a plan for the unexpected can help them feel more prepared.

Take for example atrial fibrillation or AFib, the most common cardiac arrhythmia (an irregular heartbeat) seen in clinical practice, affecting over 2.7 million people in the United States. People living with AFib are at a five times greater risk of stroke than those without this condition, a risk that their cardiologists frequently help manage by prescribing a blood thinner (otherwise known as an anticoagulant). Blood thinners help prevent blood clots from forming and have been proven to reduce the risk of stroke caused by AFib.

While the blood thinning effect is an advantage for stroke prevention, blood thinners are also associated with an increased risk of bleeding. In the rare event of an emergency, the blood thinning effect may no longer be an advantage. In these moments, emergency care teams may need to reverse the effect of the blood thinner quickly, so they can focus on the emergency in front of them.

Since emergencies are not predictable, those living with AFib should talk to their HCP about the availability of reversal for their blood thinner. As part of this conversation with their HCP, they should ask how they can best prepare. Carrying a medical ID card with the name of their blood thinner, and the name of the reversal treatment for the blood thinner, can help quickly inform an emergency care team when time is of the essence. In addition, knowing which hospitals have the reversal treatment available is critically important.

While emergency events requiring reversal are rare, they are also often unpredictable. While uncertainty can’t be removed entirely from the equation, a little preparation can go a long way in helping those living with AFib, and their families, feel ready to take on the unexpected.

For more information about reversal for those managing atrial fibrillation, click here.