Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (say “A-tree-uhl fih-bruh-LAY-shun”) is an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) that starts in the upper parts (atria) of the heart.

Normally, the heart beats in a strong, steady rhythm. In atrial fibrillation, a problem with the heart’s electrical system causes the atria to quiver, or fibrillate. The quivering upsets the normal rhythm between the atria and the lower parts (ventricles) of the heart. The lower parts may beat fast and without a regular rhythm.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

Symptoms
Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms at all, while others experience one or more warning signs. Symptoms include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased energy and strength
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Sensation of pounding, fluttering or racing in the chest
  • Sensation of skipped heartbeats
  • Dizziness or fainting
Diagnosis
To confirm the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, one or more of these common tests may be used:

EKG (electrocardiogram) – In most cases, atrial fibrillation can be detected with this simple, noninvasive recording of the heart’s electrical activity.
Holter monitor – This compact portable device is typically worn for 24 to 48 hours and continuously records the heart’s rhythm to detect the arrhythmia.
Heart rhythm event monitor – This monitor is typically worn for two to four weeks and is activated by a patient with the push of a button when the arrhythmia occurs.

Treatment
Effective treatment of atrial fibrillation often requires a multidisciplinary team effort. Our goals include restoring a normal heart rhythm whenever possible, relieving symptoms, improving patients’ quality of life, and reducing the risks associated with A Fib, including blood clots that may lead stroke.

Treatments range from lifestyle change, medications and follow-up care to implantation of medical devices, cardiac catheter ablation and specific open-heart surgical procedures. We will provide access to future clinical trials.

To enhance and complement treatment, we provide thorough patient education and offer additional resources.

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