Atrial Fibrillation (cont.)
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What is atrial fibrillation (AFib, AF)?
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Atrial fibrillation (also referred to as AFib, Afib, A-fib, and AF) is an irregular and often rapid heart rhythm. The irregular rhythm, or arrhythmia, results from abnormal electrical impulses in the upper chambers (atria, singular=atrium) of the heart that cause the heartbeat (ventricle contraction) to be irregular and usually fast. The irregularity can be continuous, or it can come and go. Some individuals, especially patients on medications, may have atrial fibrillation constantly but not have a rapid (>100 heartbeats per minute) rate at rest. Variations of AFib may be termed paroxysmal, persistent, or permanent (these are further described below). AFib is the most common heart arrhythmia.
Normal heart contractions begin as an electrical impulse in the right atrium. This impulse comes from an area of the atrium called the sinoatrial (SA) or sinus node, the "natural pacemaker" that causes the normal range of regular heartbeats. Normal heartbeats proceed as follows:
In an adult person with a normal heart rate and rhythm the heart beats 50-100 times per minute at rest (not under stress or exercising).
In atrial fibrillation, multiple sources of impulses other than only from the SA node travel through the atria at the same time. The reason that these sources develop are not completely understood, but cardiac muscles in the pulmonary veins have electrical generating properties and may be one source of these extra impulses.
Atrial fibrillation can occur in several different patterns.
Atrial fibrillation, often called AFib, atrial tachyarrhythmia, or atrial tachycardia, is one of the very common heart rhythm disorders.
For many people, atrial fibrillation may cause symptoms but does no harm.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/25/2016
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