Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, frequently rapid heart rhythm originating in the atria (top chambers of the heart). Instead of the normal situation (normal sinus rhythm) in which a single impulse travels in an orderly fashion through the heart, in AF many impulses begin simultaneously and spread through the atria, causing a rapid and disorganized heart beat.Atrial fibrillation doubles the risk of death. It also increases the risk of stroke five to seven times compared to a person without atrial fibrillation. In addition, atrial fibrillation may cause congestive heart failure and uncomfortable symptoms related to a rapid heart rate. Advances in ablation (both minimal invasive surgical and catheter) offer the possibility of cure to a large number of patients.
Treatment for Atrial Fabrilation:
Medical therapy for Atrial Fibrillation
Initially, medications are used to treat atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation medications may include:
- Rhythm control medications (antiarrhythmic drugs)
- Rate control medications (to slow the heart rate)
- Coumadin (an anticoagulant or blood thinner) to prevent blood clots and stroke
Surgical Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation
Surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation is considered when:
- Medical therapy does not effectively control or correct atrial fibrillation
- Medications for atrial fibrillation are not tolerated
- Anticoagulants (coumadin) can not be taken
- Blood clots, including strokes, occur
Minimally invasive surgery is an option for many patients with atrial fibrillation. Surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation also may be considered when surgery is needed to treat a coexisting heart condition, such as valve or coronary artery disease.
To determine if surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation is appropriate, a thorough evaluation will be performed, which includes:
- A review of your medical history
- Echocardiogram (echo)
- Complete physical examination
- Holter monitor test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Other tests as needed
After the evaluation, the surgeon will discuss your treatment options and together, you will determine if you are a candidate for surgery.