Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib)
What is A-FIB?
It is an abnormal heart rhythm that involves the atria, which are the two upper chambers of the heart. Instead of making a strong beat, the atria fibrillate or quiver. This is a problem because it causes the heart to beat fast, but not strong. Blood does not flow through the heart as well as it should, which may cause it to form clots. These blood clots may leave the heart and enter the brain, where they can cause a stroke.
What are the symptoms of A-Fib?
You may feel light in the head, faint, weak, short of breath, have chest pain, or feel like your heart is beating very fast. Some people have no symptoms and do not know that they have it until found by a doctor.
How is A-Fib diagnosed?
A-Fib is diagnosed through an electrocardiogram (EKG), which is a graph of the heart’s electrical activity. It is an easy, non-invasive test. Patches with wires are put on your skin and the electrical activity is recorded.
How is A-Fib treated?
There are many ways to treat A-Fib and your doctor will help decide which are the best for you. Treatments include:
• Drugs: Certain drugs may be used to help slow down your heart rate and to
help it go back to a normal rhythm.
• Blood thinners: Blood thinners will be used to prevent a clot from being
formed in the heart. Warfarin (Coumadin) and Heparin are the names of
some blood thinners that may be used.
• Cardioversion: Cardioversion is when your heart is put back into a normal
rhythm. This may be done with drugs at the hospital so your heart rate and
rhythm can be watched at all times. If the drug does not work, it may also
be done with an electric shock to “reset” your heart. This is also done at the
hospital. Sedation is used so you do not feel the shock.
• Ablation: If the drug and the cardioversion do not work, your doctor may
want to try an ablation. This involves sending “heat” or “freeze” energy to
the part of the heart that causes the A-Fib, and will change the electrical
pattern of the heart tissue. This helps the heart return to a normal rhythm.
It is done in a hospital. Sedation is used so you do not feel it.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 07/30/2013
Copyright © 02/26/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#6252
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