What is Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat that occurs when the two upper chambers of the heart are not coordinated with the lower chambers, resulting in heart palpitations and other symptoms.
What are the Symptoms?
The symptoms of atrial fibrillation are:
- Heart palpitations that make you feel like your heart is racing, irregular or flip-flopping
- Less stamina for exercise
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
How is it Diagnosed?
To diagnose atrial fibrillation, your doctor will conduct a physical exam and may order tests including:
- Electrocardiogram – This test shows on graph paper the electrical impulses of the heart at the time it is given
- Holter Monitor or Event Recorder – For patients whose irregular heartbeats are less frequent, this monitor can be used. It is worn over a prescribed period of time to capture these irregular beats.
How is it Treated?
Treatment for atrial fibrillation varies based on several factors, including what is causing the problem, if there are underlying conditions, how healthy your heart is, etc. In some cases, your doctor will try to restore your heart’s normal rhythm either through electrical cardioversion (using electric shock) or with medication. This treatment may be followed up with anti-arrhythmic medication. Another option is to take medications that control your heartrate, restoring it to normal.
If these treatments fail, your doctor may suggest procedures like a catheter ablation or a surgical maze procedure that targets and destroys the heart tissue causing the problematic electrical signals. The biggest concern for atrial fibrillation patients is increased risk of stroke, especially for patients with heart disease. In this type of case, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications as well.Previous Page Last Review Date: May 20, 2019