Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Approximately 33.5 million people around the world have an arrhythmia called Atrial Fibrillation or AFib. The World Health Organization actually designated AFib as a global epidemic. When left untreated, AFib can lead to serious complications like stroke and heart failure. That’s why it’s critical that you seek help as soon as you suspect or start experiencing symptoms. It also important to understand your risk for getting AFib.
- Heart palpitations
- Strong awareness of your heart beating
- Chest pain, pressure or discomfort
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
See a cardiologist within one week.
Medications to Treat Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
If you have atrial fibrillation (AFib) your doctor may prescribe medication. Since the most devastating complication of atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a stroke, your doctor may prescribe blood thinners to prevent clotting. This could be aspirin, warfarin
or a novel oral anticoagulant like Pradaxa, Xarelto or Eliquis. Blood thinners may increase your risk of bleeding. In some cases, monthly tests may be required to monitor how the medication is affecting you. If you are not able to tolerate blood thinners,
you may be a candidate for the WATCHMAN device.
Medications may also help control your heart rate. Both beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are used to slow a racing heart rate. Most patients will feel and function better if their heart rates are controlled. Your doctor may also prescribe medication for maintaining normal rhythm if rate control medicine isn’t producing desired results. Medications to control your heart rhythm can reduce symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath or dizziness. Medications like Solatol, Tikosyn, Multaq, Amiodarone Rythmol and Flecainide slow the electrical signals in the heart that promote AF. Your medication and dosage will be carefully monitored to ensure that it’s working to efficiently manage your condition. Your dosage may be changed or increased until your symptoms are controlled. Be sure that you take the medication as directed.
Electrical Cardioversion to Treat Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Electrical cardioversion, a non-surgical procedure, is a rhythm reset. You will receive an electric shock on the outside of the chest while under anesthesia. The shock can “reset” the heart to a normal rhythm.
Catheter Ablation to Treat Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Catheter ablation is minimally invasive procedure used where cardiac electro physiologists (heart rhythm specialists) insert long, thin tubes into your groin and guide them through blood vessels to your heart. There are electrodes at the tips of the catheter
that use radiofrequency energy to destroy the regions that cause atrial fibrillation (AFib).
Hybrid ablation combines a surgical procedure and catheter ablation in the same procedure in the same setting. This therapy uses both the endocardial and epicardial approaches. Theoretically, this takes advantage of the best of these approaches and is often recommended for patients with complex AFib.
Thoracic Ablation to Treat Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Thorascopic ablation uses a camera and surgical instruments are inserted into the chest through several small incisions. We are the only center in Arkansas to offer this procedure. Patients with persistent, permanent AFib, with a larger left atria or
with depressed left heart function are candidates for this ablation.As with any procedure, there are a few risks. Two phrenic nerves are around the heart’s membrane that could be injured. However, if this happens, it’s usually temporary
and returns to normal with time. As with any heart procedure, there is a risk of major bleeding and infection. A very low risk of stroke does exist if there is a clot in the left atrium that could be disrupted.
The typical hospital stay is between two and four days.
Surgical Maze Procedure to Treat Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Surgical maze is for patients who need valve repair or replacement or coronary bypass surgery. With this procedure, your surgeon will make several incisions in the upper chambers of the heart to create a pattern of scar tissue to interfere with the electrical
impulses that cause atrial fibrillation.
Generally, maze procedures are recommended for patients who have symptomatic AFib and have failed at least one anti-arrhythmic drug therapy. It can also be suggested for those who have long standing persistent AFib, an enlarged left atrium (generally >4.0 cm on echocardiography), have a failed catheter ablation therapy, or prefer a surgical (epicardial) approach.
In most cases patients who have had previous open chest procedures (heart or lungs) are not candidates for this procedure. However, there are surgical options available for those patients.
Risk Factors for Developing Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) affects millions of people. It’s the most common heart problem affecting your heart or rhythm. In the U.S., AFib is more common for white people than among African Americans or Hispanics. It’s also more likely for men to develop the condition than women. The risk of developing AFib increases as you age. In fact, 1 in 25 Americans over the age of 60 have AFib. The following factors increase your risk for atrial fibrillation.
- Family history of atrial fibrillation (Afib)
- Hypertension or uncontrolled high blood pressure
- Chronic conditions like diabetes, COPD, thyroid conditions and sleep apnea
- Excessive alcohol or drug use
- Stress or anxiety
- Having other heart conditions like coronary artery disease or heart valve disease
In rare instances, atrial fibrillation is considered to be hereditary. While AFib can happen to anyone, certain risk factors make it more likely for you to develop this heart condition.
If you are at an increased risk and start exhibiting symptoms, talk to your doctor about a referral to one of our physicians that treat atrial fibrillation (Afib).
Treatment Tailored to Your Health
When you come to us for treatment, our team will evaluate your individual situation to determine the best course of action to take. Treatment for atrial fibrillation will depend on your symptoms, severity, reversible cause and whether you have heart disease. Our team of physicians will work with you to determine exactly what method of treatment is best for you. And you can be sure that you will have the most options for advanced treatment.
Heart Conditions We Treat
- Aortic Stenosis
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Chest Pain
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Heart Attack
- Heart Disease
- Heart Valve Disease
- High Blood Pressure
- High Cholesterol
- Low Blood Pressure
- Mitral Valve Disease and Regurgitation
- Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) Treatment
- Pulmonary Hypertension
- Vascular Disease