Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is a life altering disease of the heart caused due to an abnormal sinus rhythm. It also accounts for a major chunk of cases of cardiac arrests noted across the globe. Approximately 60000 cases of stroke are attributed to atrial fibrillation each year in the United States.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
The heart is a muscular bag consisting of four chambers (two upper chambers which are called the left and the right atria and two lower chambers which are called the right and left ventricles) that pump blood to the rest of the body.
The pumping of the heart is regulated by electrical impulse which normally starts in the right atrium at the sino atrial node and then travels to both the left atrium and the atrio ventricular node which further coordinates the pumping of the ventricles. This is referred to as normal sinus rhythm.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is thus a result of an abnormal sinus rhythm due to the dysfunction of the electrical conduction system of the atria marked by irregular and rapid beating of the heart’s atrial chambers. In atrial fibrillation, there is a sudden outburst of electrical activity across the two atria causing them to fibrillate (quiver) as high as 300-600 times per minute. Whether high or low, irregular sinus rhythm rates cause the ventricles to pump inefficiently which further leads to accumulation of blood inside the chambers of the heart and insufficient amounts of blood being supplied to the body.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial Fibrillation or the disorder of pooling of blood inside the chambers of the heart may result into a variety of symptoms and problems, including
- Sensations of uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat
- Decreased blood pressure
- Shortness of breath, and
- Chest pain
Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation
The wholesome objective of treatment for atrial fibrillation at the base level includes the prevention of complications such as stroke, and maintaining the patient’s functional ability and quality of life.
The two most popular strategies employed by medical practitioners worldwide to manage patient’s diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are:
- Rate control – for controlling the heart rate
- Rhythm control – for controlling the heart rhythm
Some common medical methods used to treat initial conditions of atrial fibrillation include:
- Cardioversion – for controlling heart rhythm and relieving the patient from a state of atrial fibrillation to normal sinus rhythm.
- Auto Coagulation Therapy
- Prescription of anticoagulants (“blood thinners”) to prevent the risk of stroke in a patient suffering from atrial fibriallation
Some strategies available for the management of patients with recurrent experiences of atrial fibrillation despite of best efforts to control heart rhythm include:
- Radiofrequency catheter ablation
- Cryoballoon ablation
- Surgical Maze procedure
In adverse cases, patients with atrial fibrillation are also subject to implantation of a permanent pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter defibrillator.
Newer anti coagulant medications are constantly being researched upon for safer and more effective treatment of stroke in patients suffering from atrial fibrillation as compared to available anti coagulant medications.
- Atrial Flutter Causes, Symptoms, Treatment
- Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome – Symptoms And Treatment
- Atrial Septal Defect – The Symptoms and Treatment
- Sinus Tachycardia Symptoms And Treatment
- Common Afib Symptoms
- All About Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram – What Is It?
- ECG Made Easy: ECG Simplified