Atrial Fibrillation

What is cardioversion?

If you have an irregular heart rhythm such as atrial fibrillation, your consultant may want you to have a procedure called cardioversion. This procedure attempts to restore the heartbeat to a normal rhythm. You usually have the cardioversion done under a deep sedation (so no discomfort is felt). It involves using a defibrillator and defibrillator pads on the chest. The treatment briefly interrupts the electrical activity of the heart using a controlled electrical shock which encourages the heart to return to its normal rhythm. The procedure is usually free from complications. In many cases cardioversion is done as a outpatient procedure.

Back to Top

What is the difference between atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation?

atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation in that it is a fast rhythm of the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Flutter is a more organized reentrant rhythm of usually the right upper chamber. The common atrial flutter is maintained by a counterclockwise or clockwise macroreentrant electrical circuit in the right atrium (upper chamber). This can be effectively treated by Radiofrequency ablation of the inferior vena cava – tricuspid annulus isthmus. There is scientific evidence supporting Radiofrequency catheter ablation of common atrial flutter as an appropriate therapy not only in patients with atrial flutter refractory to drug treatment, but also in selected patients who prefer an alternative to antiarrhythmic-drug therapy or repeated electrical cardioversions due to its high success rate and low risk of complicationshmus.

Back to Top

What is the relationship between Atrial Fibrillation and stroke?

During an episode of AF, the muscle of the upper chambers of the heart does not contract as it normally does to force open the valve through which blood passes from the atrium to the ventricle. The valve opens passively, but some blood may not enter the ventricle as it should. Instead, it pools in parts of the atrium, increasing the risk that clots will form in the stagnant blood. Even small blood clots can cause problems if they leave the heart and are released into the general circulation. They may clog arteries in the body and disrupt the blood supply to vital organs. Stroke happens when a clot interrupts the blood supply to the brain.

Back to Top

How Serious is Atrial Fibrillation?

AF is usually not life-threatening if it is properly diagnosed and treated. In younger people who have no other disease that affects the heart, AF usually is not considered serious. In some people, however, AF increases the risk of stroke, congestive heart failure or cardiomyopathy. According to the Framingham Heart Study, people with AF have a 3 to 5 times greater risk of stroke, especially individuals who are older than 65, have already had a stroke, or have high blood pressure, diabetes or congestive heart failure. These risks can be reduced by the careful use of blood thinners such as coumadin Sometimes, AF also can damage heart muscle, alter the normal electrical signals of the heart and change the patterns of contraction and relaxation of heart muscle. This is known as electrical remodeling.

Back to Top

What are the different types of Atrial Fibrillation?

AF may occur from time-to-time (paroxysmal AF), or it may occur constantly (persistent or permanent AF).

Back to Top

Who is Most Likely to Develop Atrial Fibrillation?

AF is uncommon among young people, and the likelihood of developing the condition increases with age. After age 65, between 3 percent and 5 percent of people have AF. Approximately 9 percent of people age 80 or older have the condition.

Back to Top

How Common is atrial fibrillation?

AF is the most common heart rhythm disorder. An estimated 2.2 million people in the United States have AF, and approximately 160,000 new cases are diagnosed every year.

Back to Top

What is the difference between atrial fibrillation and ventricular fibrillation?

atrial fibrillation affects the upper chambers of the heart. ventricular fibrillation affects the lower chambers. ventricular fibrillation is a life-threatening arrhythmia, which causes sudden cardiac arrest within minutes if not interrupted. atrial fibrillation, while not imminently life threatening, in most cases seems to have serious long-term consequences if left untreated.

Back to Top

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

Treatment for AF depends greatly upon you and your symptoms. Generally, your doctor will focus on treatments that help control your heart rate and reduce the risk of blood clots. Blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin, are commonly prescribed. Several antiarrhythmic medications that help control episodes of rapid heart rhythms also are available. The choice of which drug may help you is very individual. Because most of the medications work only some of the time, your doctor may need to try other drugs if you experience continued symptoms or unwanted side effects. In a number of AF patients, medications cannot effectively control the arrhythmia or may cause serious side effects. For these individuals, a procedure called ablation could be considered. Some patients may need a pacemaker in conjunction with an ablation procedure. External and internal cardioversion, drug treatment regimens, and a variety of kinds of catheter ablation procedures are currently used to control atrial fibrillation. The choice of which is best for you is made by you and your doctor.

Back to Top

How is atrial fibrillation diagnosed?

To diagnose AF, your doctor will typically use an electrocardiogram (ECG) test. This is a painless test using electrode patches on your skin that shows how electrical signals travel through your heart and prints them out on paper. Your doctor can tell what kind of rhythm you have by looking at the printed pattern of your heartbeat. However, if the fibrillation is intermittent, a regular ECG test may not show the problem. Your doctor may suggest other types of tests that involve wearing a small monitor over several days in an effort to try and record an AF episode. Your doctor will explain what type of testing is best for you.

Back to Top

What are symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation vary, so not everyone feels the same thing during AF. Some people with AF experience palpitations, a sudden fluttering or pounding in the chest. Sometimes, because your heart is not pumping efficiently during AF, you may feel dizzy, faint, or short of breath. Some people have no symptoms at all.

Back to Top

What are the causes and risk factors?

Precise causes of atrial fibrillation can be difficult to identify. High blood pressure and coronary artery disease are associated with AF, as are other heart and lung conditions such as disease of the heart valves, chronic lung disease, and congestive heart failure. Otherwise normal hearts influenced by alcohol, stress, caffeine, severe infections, or some drugs may experience AF. Sometimes, no underlying cause is identified. As you grow older, the risk of AF seems to increase, especially after age 60.

Back to Top

What are the causes and risk factors?

Precise causes of atrial fibrillation can be difficult to identify. High blood pressure and coronary artery disease are associated with AF, as are other heart and lung conditions such as disease of the heart valves, chronic lung disease, and congestive heart failure. Otherwise normal hearts influenced by alcohol, stress, caffeine, severe infections, or some drugs may experience AF. Sometimes, no underlying cause is identified. As you grow older, the risk of AF seems to increase, especially after age 60.

Back to Top

Left Menu Icon