The heart has two upper chambers and two lower chambers. Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart contract at a very high rate and in an entirely disorganised manner. The risk of developing atrial fibrillation increases with age AF affects four percent of individuals in their 80s. The heart contracts (beats) and pumps blood with a regular rhythm, for example, at a rate of 60 beats per minute there is a beat every second. The rate of impulses through the atria can range from 300 to 600 beats per minute. Atrial fibrillation is often asymptomatic, but may result in symptoms of palpitations , fainting , chest pain , or even heart failure. In addition, the erratic motion of the atria leads to blood stagnation ( stasis ) which increases the risk of blood clots that may travel from the heart to the brain and other areas. Several medications as well as electrical cardioversion may be used to convert AF to a normal heart rhythm. Surgical and catheter-based therapies may also be used to prevent atrial fibrillation in certain individuals. People with AF are often given blood thinners such as warfarin to protect them from strokes.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
The common Causes of Atrial Fibrillation :
Congenital heart disease.
Chronic lung disease.
Heart valve disease.
After heart surgery.
Hypertension (high blood pressure).
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Some Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation :
Shortness of breath.
Pulse may feel rapid, racing, pounding, fluttering, or it can feel too slow.
Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
Drugs (such as ibutilide) can sometimes restore the heart’s normal rhythm. These drugs are given under medical supervision, and are delivered through an IV tube into a vein, usually in the patient’s arm.
Electrical cardioversion may be used to restore normal heart rhythm with an electric shock, when medication doesn’t improve symptoms.
Surgery can be used to disrupt electrical pathways that generate AF.
Radiofrequency ablation may be effective in some patients when medications don’t work. In this procedure, thin and flexible tubes are introduced through a blood vessel and directed to the heart muscle. Then a burst of radiofrequency energy is delivered to destroy tissue that triggers abnormal electrical signals or to block abnormal electrical pathways.
Atrial pacemakers can be implanted under the skin to regulate the heart rhythm.
Medications are used to slow down rapid heart rate associated with AF. These treatments may include drugs such as digoxin, beta blockers (atenolol, metoprolol, propranolol), amiodarone, disopyramide, calcium antagonists (verapamil, diltiazam), sotalol, flecainide, procainamide, quinidine, propafenone, etc.