Atrial Fibrillation

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillationThe most common type of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat. A healthy heart has a normal sinus rhythm in which the atriums and ventricles contract synchronously (at the same time). In the case of atrial fibrillation for patients, however, the atriums do not contract normally and will fibrillate (make a quivering movement) while the ventricles continue to contract normally.

Some people with atrial fibrillation experience symptoms and others do not. The larger issue is that blood can become stagnant in the left atrium, specifically in the left atrial appendage, and a blood clot can develop. If the clot becomes loose, it can cause a stroke. Many patients with atrial fibrillation take "blood thinners" to reduce the risk of stroke.

Risk Factors

  • Hypertension
  • Coronary artery disease 
  • Mitral regurgitation 
  • Tricuspid regurgitation 
  • Heart failure 

Symptoms

  • Sensation of heart racing or skipped heartbeats 
  • Chest tightness or discomfort
  • Lightheaded or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath 

Diagnosis and Tests

  • Electrocardiogram 
  • 24-hour Holter monitor
  • 30-day event monitor 
  • Echocardiogram 
  • Stress test

Treatments

Treatment for atrial fibrillation can include suppressive therapy with rhythm or rate control medications designed to prevent the attacks, and blood thinning medications to keep the heart from forming blood clots during an event. A curative approach can be achieved with a specialized, catheter-based procedure called an AF Ablation.

At the Ben and Zelda Cohen Heart Rhythm Center, we focus on catheter ablation, a procedure that isolates and permanently prevents these abnormal impulses from triggering this heart rhythm disturbance.

  • Medications that slow heart rate
  • Medications that control heart rhythm 
  • Medications that reduce stroke risk 
  • Cardioversion (use of electricity to restore normal heart rhythm) 
  • Catheter ablation 
  • MAZE procedure