St. Joseph Health System
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Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial Fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm seen today. Approximately 2.2 million Americans suffer from this disorder. On average, there are 160,000 new cases diagnosed each year. When experiencing atrial fibrillation, the upper two chambers of the heart no longer beat in a synchronized fashion.

What are the warning signs and symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?
Individuals with Atrial Fibrillation may have heart rates that are too slow, too fast, or within the normal range. Many people experience no symptoms at all, limited symptoms in the form of palpitations, or catastrophic symptoms such as loss of consciousness due to heart beat rates that are either too fast or too slow . A major risk of atrial fibrillation is stroke. The risk factors which appear to increase the risk of stroke in individuals with atrial fibrillation include age greater than 65 years, presence of diabetes, presence of hypertensive heart disease, congestive heart failure, mitral stenosis (tight mitral valve), or history of prior stroke.

What are the treatment options for Atrial Fibrillation?
Treating atrial fibrillation varies by individual. Your doctor will take a thorough history and perform a comprehensive physical examination to determine if your atrial fibrillation is due to another problem, such as hypertension, coronary artery disease, valvular heart disease, or thyroid dysfunction. Firbillations may be treated with electrical cardioversion in hopes of controlling the rate of the heart or with medication.

Other Treatment Options
At times, medications do not adequately control the ventricular rate in atrial fibrillation. In these cases, a commonly performed procedure today is to implant a pacemaker device or catheter into the left atrium. While these procedures do not eliminate the fibrillation itself, it does allow the patient to maintain a normalized heart rate. 

For a referral to a St. Joseph's cardiologist call 979.821.7589. 

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