Atrial fibrillation

The electrical wire-like setup inside the heart can cause the heart to slow or speeden up at times. The condition in which the heart speeds up and beats very fast is called tachyarrhythmia or tachycardia. Heart palpitations are the most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

Atrial fibrillation can damage the coordination or synchrony of the upper portion of the heart (atrium). An altered heart rhythm can cause the heart to beat 600-700 times per minute. When the heart rate is measured for the patient with atrial fibrillation, it might be anywhere between 150-200 beats per minute.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

Risk factors of atrial fibrillation

  • Age: When you reach the age of 70-80, there is an increased risk of damage to the upper region of the heart, because of the normal ageing process. 1 in 4 people over the age of 80 possess the risk of suffering from atrial fibrillation. Hence it is best to get regular medical checkups once you reach a certain age.
  • Poor control of diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity is a common risk factor for atrial fibrillation in young people. Side effects of obesity like obstructive sleep apnea can lead to poor sleep quality which in turn can cause atrial fibrillation.

Can atrial fibrillation cause stroke?

Atrial fibrillation in people over the age of 70 can lead to stroke. The increased heart rate at the upper portion of the heart increases the risk of blood clotting in that particular region. This clot can travel to the brain and cause stroke. Thus usually the doctors would prescribe blood thinners for these patients who have the risk of stroke. Also for the patients who come in with stroke, tests are done to determine whether atrial fibrillation is the cause.

Treatments for atrial fibrillation

Medications

Medications like amiodarone, bisoprolol and metoprolol are prescribed for patients who suffer from atrial fibrillation. These can help prevent future episodes of atrial fibrillation in the patient. Amiodarone is a very strong medication and comes with some manageable side effects.

Cardiac electrophysiology study and RF ablation procedure

This procedure is recommended for people who experience recurrent heart palpitations because of atrial fibrillation. Usually, the palpitations start from the back side of the heart where the four pulmonary veins join. This procedure is done to disconnect the electrical connection between the heart and the pulmonary veins. This is a non-surgical procedure in which the wire is sent through the leg to the left atrium and an RF (Radiofrequency) pulse is given to the pulmonary veins. After the veins are disconnected, the electrical firing to the heart does not happen which in turn drastically reduces the risk of atrial fibrillation. This procedure can even totally cure the problem of atrial fibrillation in some people. Medications are also prescribed for a certain time.

This procedure is usually recommended in the early stages since it is not very effective if the heart is badly damaged due to frequent and repeated heart palpitations.

 

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