This electrocardiogram trace shows the heartbeat of an 80-year-old man experiencing AF. Abnormalities are expressed by changes in the T wave after the main heartbeat peak.
Radiofrequency ablation, a procedure to target and destroy the heart tissue responsible for the abnormal electrical signals that cause AF, is an option for patients with more serious symptoms, who do not respond to medication. Clinicians can now use real time x-ray and EKG data to perform remote catheter ablations to avoid exposure to large doses of radiation during lengthy procedures.
AF risk factors include hypertension, coronary artery disease, myocardial infarction, heart failure and heart valve problems. Other risk factors include being white, male and aged older than 60 year, and family history of AF.
AF symptoms may not always be obvious, but include uneven pulse racing or pounding heart, chest pain, dizziness, breathlessness, weakness, fatigue and fainting.
Patients with AF are six times more likely to experience a stroke, as an irregular heart beat can cause blood to pool and clot, like the thrombus in the left cardiac auricle pictured in this echography.
Primary care clinicians can prescribe rhythm-control medications, such as dronedarone or amiodarone, and anticoagulants, including warfarin or aspirin, to help manage mild AF and prevent stroke.
Atrial fibrillation is a condition that disrupts the normal rhythm of the heart. AF occurs when abnormal electrical signals in the heart cause the atria to quiver rapidly causing the heart’s ventricles to beat irregularly.
The most common cardiac rhythm disorder, atrial fibrillation (AF) affects an estimated 2.3 million Americans and is becoming more widespread as the population ages. Patient age, comorbidity, symptom presentation and the complexity of the condition effect whether AF can be effectively managed in the primary care setting.