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Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation Quick Overview

  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) often, but not always, resulting in a fast heart beat (greater than 100 bpm) at rest.
  • Causes of AFib are numerous; for example:
  • Some people have no symptoms of atrial fibrillation; however, those that do have symptoms that are numerous. Some include:
  • palpitations (a sensation of rapid and irregular heart beat),
  • Diagnosis of AFib is begun with the patient's history and physical exam; simply listening to the heart beat is often enough for a preliminary diagnosis. Usually an electrocardiogram is done to help distinguish atrial fibrillation from other arrhythmias.
  • Treatment for AFib is variable and depends upon the patient's condition; three goals are usually attempted; first is medication - cardiac rate control (slowing down the ventricular rate if it is fast), second is to restore and maintain normal cardiac rhythm, and finally, to prevent clot formation (a common complication of untreated atrial fibrillation).
    • Alternatively, some patients benefit from cardioversion (electrical current is used to shock the heart back to sinus rhythm), catheter ablation (a technique that threads catheter into the hearts atrium and with attachments that deliver radiofrequency energy) or cryoablation (freezing) to disable or kill cells responsible for generating the abnormal signals.
    • Infrequently, a pacemaker needs to be placed; others may require maze surgery that surgically interrupts the cardiac signaling mechanism between the atria and ventricles.
  • Complications of AFib are serious. The most dangerous complication of atrial fibrillation is a stroke. Other serious complications can be heart failure and different arrhythmias.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/26/2015

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Patient Comments & Reviews

The eMedicineHealth doctors ask about Atrial Fibrillation (AFib):

Atrial Fibrillation - Effective Treatments

What types of procedures (for example cardioversion) have you undergone for AFib?

Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) - Blood Thinning Medications

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Atrial Fibrillation - Symptoms

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Atrial Fibrillation - Experience

Do you or someone you love have AFib? Please share your experience if you feel it may help others.

Atrial Fibrillation - Non Blood Clotting Medications

Do you take non blood thinking medications for AFib? If so, please share your experience with finding the right medication.

Foods That Affect Heart Rate

Certain types of foods tend to aggravate certain arrhythmias, both bradycardias and tachycardias. As with many other cardiac conditions, arrhythmias are easier to manage if you eat a balanced diet. Two dietary changes you should make after being diagnosed with an arrhythmia are described below:

  1. You should avoid specific substances that can trigger an episode of the irregular heart rhythm.
  2. To keep your heart healthy and avoid a general worsening of your condition, you should eat a balanced diet of low-sodium and low-fat foods.


Atrial Fibrillation Slideshow

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Atrial Fibrilation »

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a supraventricular tachyarrhythmia characterized by disorganized atrial electrical activity and progressive deterioration of atrial electromechanical function.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

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