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Heart & Vascular Institute

Atrial Fibrillation

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation or AFib, is an irregular, heartbeat that occurs in the upper chambers of the heart, theatria. In this form of arrhythmia, the atria beat irregularly with the ventricles, or lower heart chambers,rather than all four chambers beating in synchronization. A-Fib increases the risk of stroke in patients byallowing clots to form in the atrium which can travel to the brain.

What are the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

Patients with A-Fib often report feeling a thumping or fluttering sensation in their heart during light ormoderate activity as well as chest pain or pressure and shortness of breath. Other symptoms includetiredness, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, faintness, weakness, sweating and fatigue during exercise. Somepatients experience no symptoms at all.

How is Atrial Fibrillation diagnosed?

A-Fib can be diagnosed through a thorough physical exam by your physician. Your doctor may order anelectrocardiogram, (EKG or ECG) to document you’re a-Fib.

How is Atrial Fibrillation treated?

Treatment options for A-Fib vary greatly and are dependent upon the severity and frequency ofsymptoms. Some A-Fib cases can be treated with medications that control either the heart rate orrhythm to prevent episodes of arrhythmia. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to preventclotting which can lead to stroke.

Radiofrequency ablation may be effective in some patients when medications don’t work. In thisprocedure, thin and flexible tubes are introduced through a blood vessel and directed to the heartmuscle. Then a burst of radiofrequency energy is delivered to destroy tissue that triggers abnormalelectrical signals or to block abnormal electrical pathways.

Surgery can be used to disrupt electrical pathways that generate A-Fib.Atrial pacemakers can be implanted under the skin to regulate the heart rhythm.

*Information from the American Heart Association

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