What is Atrial Fibrillation?

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Atrial fibrillation (also called AFib) is a common condition in which the heart beats irregularly. More specifically, AFib occurs when the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) do not coordinate with the lower chambers (the ventricles) during a heartbeat. This results in an insufficient amount of blood being pumped from the atria to the ventricles, which subsequently leads to the rest of the body not receiving enough blood.

Patients with AFib report feeling heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat. They may also feel faintness, fatigue or breathlessness, which may result from the inadequate blood flow to the body. AFib can be detected during a regular physical examination, through an electrocardiogram or a Holter monitor.

There are different types of AFib, depending on the frequency of the symptoms and their response to treatment. In paroxysmal AFib, symptoms go away within a week with or without treatment. In persistent AFib, symptoms are continuously present for at least a week and require treatment to recede. Finally, in permanent AFib, the rhythm cannot be restored to normal and long-term use of medication or other treatment is required.

AFib is usually treated by a combination of diet and lifestyle changes, along with medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers or anticoagulants. For more severe cases, more invasive interventions may be required to help restore a normal heart rhythm. Some examples of such procedures are catheter ablation, which is minimally invasive, or surgical ablation, which is a full surgical procedure.

More sources on AFib

  1. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

  3. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af

— Vicky Kanta