Atrial fibrillation treatment depends on many factors and therefore varies from person to person. The following article will cover some information related to treatment of atrial fibrillation. This will prove to be useful to you in understanding more about this heart condition.
The irregular and rapid heart rate that causes reduction in blood flow into the body is atrial fibrillation (AF). The disturbance to the heart rhythm causes irregular heartbeats in the sinus node. Thus, during atrial fibrillation, the upper atrial heart chambers lose their normal rhythm. These upper chambers develop abnormal rhythms that causes the lower chambers to beat irregularly. Thus, the heart rate becomes faster than normal and heartbeat is irregular. This abnormal heart rhythm is called arrhytmia. Atrial fibrillation treatment depends on the type of condition, health of patient as well as presence of any other underlying cause. Different types of atrial fibrillation include:
- Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
- Persistent atrial fibrillation
- Permanent atrial fibrillation
If one suffers from AF, he/she will start showing symptoms. These symptoms include heart palpitations, dizziness, chest pain and breathlessness. The heart starts pumping small amount of blood faster. This causes the blood to pool in the veins of the lungs. Therefore, one starts observing the above mentioned symptoms. This condition occurs due to high blood pressure in most cases. It can even occur in presence of an ischaemic heart disease like angina or heart attack. People with cardiomyopathy, pericardial disease, heart valve problems, etc. may also show AF. Other conditions like hyperthyroidism, pulmonary embolus, obesity, chronic alcoholism, etc. may also lead to this heart condition. Thus, it becomes necessary to seek atrial fibrillation treatment. The following paragraphs contain information related to treatment of atrial fibrillation that may be suggested by the doctor.
In many cases, patients do not exhibit any symptoms or health complications due to AF. This generally occurs in case of very old people who are not very active. However, atrial fibrillation treatment is necessary as it may lead to development of blood clots. These blood clots can lead to complications like stroke, cardiomyopathy and even heart failure. Some of the treatment methods that may be considered for, by a doctor are as follows:
The doctor may suggest use of blood thinners to avoid formation of blood clots. Along with these medications, the doctor may prescribe either of the two medications for AF. One of these medications prevents atrial fibrillation and the other helps control heart rate during AF. Propafenone, flecainide, sotalol, dofetilide, etc. are some of the medications that help prevent AF. Medications like propranolol, metoprolol, atenolol, verapamil, etc. help control rapid heartbeats during AF. A few patients may be prescribed both these medications and some may be given either one of the two types. However, one should keep in mind that these medications may have side effects. Also, these medications help in controlling the symptoms of AF and do not cure the condition. Thus, once the patient stops taking the medications, AF may reocur.
This is a procedure, where an electric shock is delivered to the chest wall. This shock helps in restoration of the normal heart rhythm in patients with AF. This procedure is only helpful, if the patient is suffering from the condition for a few months. If this is a long term complaint, there is a probability that the condition may return after successful treatment. However, the patient is given blood thinners before carrying out electrical cardioversion. This is because, if there are blood clots present, they may be dislocated from the heart. These clots may travel down to the brain and lead to a stroke. In some cases, a doctor may wait for up to 4 weeks after prescribing warfarin, before conducting the procedure.
AV Node Ablation
Patients suffering from rapid and irregular heartbeat that causes shortness of breath, dizziness and exercise intolerance are suggested AV node ablation as treatment. This procedure is required only for those patients who do not show improvement with medications. In this surgical procedure, a catheter is inserted into a vein in the groin area and reaches the AV node in the heart. A radiofrequency energy is passed through this catheter that helps destroy the AV node. Thus, irregular heartbeats are totally eliminated. However, this causes the pulse rate to drop down to 30 beats per minute. Therefore, the patient requires implantation of a pacemaker to maintain normal heart rhythm.
An electronic device that is implanted just under the skin of the upper chest is called a pacemaker. This device is attached with a couple of wires that are inserted into a vein. The device is placed just above the heart and it sends electrical impulses to heart from time to time. A pacemaker works on a battery that has a life of about 6 years. Success rates of a pacemaker implantation are as high as 99%. This procedure is very useful in reducing the symptoms of rapid and irregular heart rate.
Open Heart Surgery
Complete elimination of atrial fibrillation can be carried out with the help of an open heart surgery, also called Maze operation. The surgeon makes an incision and reaches the heart through the lower end of the sternum. After carrying out various procedures that include incisions, freezing and cauterizaton, AF is eliminated. This procedure is successful in about 90% of the patients. Those suffering from just AF, are advised to undergo mini-Maze surgical procedure. This involves a small operation that helps destroy the areas that lead to AF.
As you can see from the above atrial fibrillation treatment guidelines, each procedure is considered after taking the patient’s health and other factors into account. None of the procedures are risk free and therefore, one should speak to the doctor in detail about each suggested treatment.