All about AFib
Atrial fibrillation (also known as AFib or AF) is the most common heart rhythm condition. It currently affects more than 2.5 million adults in America, and the risk for developing the condition increases with age. AFib can greatly impact quality of life, causing heart palpitations, chronic fatigue and chest pain. Its prevalence is expected to more than double in the U.S. during the next 30-40 years.
In a normal heart, the four chambers of the heart beat in a steady, rhythmic pattern. AFib causes the upper chambers of the heart (atria) to quiver or twitch erratically (fibrillate) which results in a rapid and irregular heartbeat. Instead of one electrical impulse moving through the heart, many impulses begin in the atria. This happens as a result of the structure of the heart and its electrical system changing over time as we age. The atria may beat as often as 300 times per minute — about four times faster than normal. Many patients with A-Fib compare it to the feeling of a goldfish flopping in their chest.
As the electrical pathway changes during the aging process, one or more "triggers" may develop, causing the development of electrical circuits which send extra impulses to the heart muscle at a faster than normal rate. These extra electrical signals cause the heart to beat in a fast, disorganized and inefficient way, making it more difficult for blood to be pumped efficiently. With the blood supply moving more slowly throughout the body, the chances for a blood clot to form are increased. If a blood clot is pumped out of the heart and travels to the brain, it can cause a stroke.
Without treatment, AFib can also make the heart beat too fast for long periods of time, causing the heart muscle to weaken. This condition, cardiomyopathy, can lead to heart failure and result in long-term disability and/or death. If left untreated, AFib increases the risk of stroke fivefold, and can double the risk of a heart-related death.
There are three types of AFib:
- Paroxysmal AFib: Occurs periodically and then stops by itself, returning to a normal heart rhythm.
- Persistent AFib: Does not stop by itself; medication or electrical shock is used to help the heart return to a normal rhythm.
- Permanent AFib: Cannot be corrected using medications or cardioversion to help the heart return to a normal rhythm.
Summa Cardiovascular Institute (SCI) offers patients a comprehensive AFib program staffed by specially trained electrophysiologists who can effectively treat and manage the condition.
The program is designed to:
- Improve the patient's quality of life
- Improve adherence to treatment regimens, including medications
- Reduce the number of ER visits, hospitalizations and/or readmissions
- Reduce the risk of adverse events and complications associated with complex medication regimens
- Encourage patients to become an active partner with their physician as it relates to a treatment plan
To schedule an appointment, call (888) 496-7168 or complete the appointment form on the right. To learn more about Summa's AFib Program, download your free A Patient's Guide to AFib Treatment.