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Atrial Fibrillation

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm, or in medical terms, an arrhythmia. This chaotic, uncontrolled heart rhythm occurs when the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) contract so rapidly and irregularly that it is difficult for the heart to beat effectively. AF is one of the major contributors to congestive heart failure and other serious arrhythmias involving the ventricles, the major pumping chambers of the heart. It is also known to be a common risk factor and cause of stoke.

How can Atrial Fibrillation cause a stroke?

The irregular beating prevents the blood from being fully pumped from the atria, so it may pool and clot. If a blood clot moves to an artery in the brain, a stroke can result.

How fast does the heart beat during Atrial Fibrillation?

During Atrial Fibrillation, the upper chambers beat between 350 and 600 times per minute. In contrast, a normal heart rhythm is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

How common is Atrial Fibrillation?

It is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, affecting more than 2.4 million Americans and 5 to 10% of persons over 65 years old. The disease is progressive and increases in frequency and severity as patients grow older.

What are the risk factors for Atrial Fibrillation?

Controllable:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Non-Controllable:

  • Family history of heart disease
  • Congenital heart disorders
  • Advancing age
  • Gender

What are the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?

  • Heart palpitations -Fainting
  • Tightness in chest -Confusion
  • Irregular heart rhythm -Chest discomfort
  • Shortness of breath -Fatigue
  • Dizziness, light-headedness -Anxiousness

How is Atrial Fibrillation treated?

There are a variety of treatments for AF, including drug therapy, interventional procedures and surgery. AF is most often treated with drugs, which may include a variety of antiarryhthmics (used to treat irregular rhythms) and anticoagulants (used to prevent the formation of blood clots). Other treatments include catheter-based procedures, major open-heart surgery, and cardiac ablation, such as the Epicor system.