What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Also known as AF or AFib, Atrial Fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm that affects the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Instead of beating normally, the atria quivers. This can lead to rapid heart rhythms of 300 beats per minute in atria and up to 150 beats per minute in the lower chambers (ventricles).
Tired of Blood Thinners? We May Be Able to Help!
Dr. Klugherz & Dr. Borge have implanted the first “Watchman device” in our area. It is a device that is placed in a section of the heart that forms clots in patients with a rhythm disorder known as atrial fibrillation. These clots cause stroke and require the use of blood thinners.
Learn more HERE.
How do you know you may have AF?
For someone that has AF, symptoms may include:
- Heart Sensations (or palpitations) that include irregular, thumping, or pounding heartbeats.
- A feeling that the heart is racing.
- Chest discomfort or pain.
- Fainting or lightheadedness.
- Fatigue, shortness of breath, or weakness.
Increased Risk of Stroke and Heart Failure
AF increases the risk of heart failure. This is due to the rapid and irregular heartbeats associated with atrial fibrillation that can make your heart larger and weaker over time. Because of this inflammation, a larger and weaker heart does not pump blood to all the areas of your body efficiently. This is what we mean by the term “heart failure”.
Three Different Types of AF
There are three different types of AF. The first type, Paroxysmal AF, occurs sometimes and then stops. The AF stops by itself and the heart returns to its normal rhythm. The AF may last for seconds, minutes, hours, or up to seven days before the heart returns to its normal rhythm.
Persistent AF occurs when the AF does not stop by itself. Medications and/or cardioversion (a special type of electrical shock) may be used to help the heart to return to its normal rhythm. A short-lasting Persistent AF ranges from 7 days to 12 months while a long stand Persistent AF lasts more than 12 months.
Goals of Treating AF
Relieving the symptoms of AF will improve the patient’s quality of life. In order to do so, it is important to prevent blood clots to decrease the risk of stroke. Also, controlling the heart rate to allow the ventricles (lower heart chambers) enough time to fill with blood. Finally, it is important to reset the heart rhythm to allow the atria (upper chambers of the heart) and ventricles to work together more efficiently.
Treatment Options for AF
Although there is no definitive cure for AF, there are treatment options. One treatment method consists of anticoagulation, or “blood thinning”. This therapy is used to prevent clots from forming. Medications are also used to control the heart rate or rhythm. Another kind of treatment option for AF is the restoration of normal heart rhythm either through electrical cardioversion or medication. Radiofrequency, or cryo catheter, ablation is a viable option (these therapies are further discussed in the following pages). Continuing on, pacemakers and defibrillators (although not used as a stand-alone treatment), may be used in conjunction with medication or catheter ablation. The final known treatment option is simply surgery. This creates lines of scar tissue to block abnormal electrical circuits causing AF.