Arrhythmia (Atrial Fibrillation)
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Arrhythmia, Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (commonly known as AF or “a-fib”) is the most common cause of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia).  It is a serious condition that can increase the risk of stroke.

Your heart is a hollow muscle made up of four chambers.  The chambers contract (or “beat”), squeezing blood in and out of the heart.  The chambers typically beat in coordination with one another, following a consistent rhythm.  Atrial fibrillation happens when the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) beat out of coordination with the two lower chambers (ventricles).[1]

This change in rhythm can cause blood clots to form in the heart.  These clots can break free and become lodged in blood vessels, causing blockages (embolisms).  When these blockages affect blood flow to the brain, there is an increased risk of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation symptoms

Many of those with atrial fibrillation do not notice any symptoms, and are only diagnosed after a cardiologist performs an electrocardiogram (a test that measures heart rate and rhythm).

Atrial fibrillation treatment

There are a number of different treatment options.  Cardiologists often prescribe blood thinning medications to prevent clotting.  If medication cannot manage a patient’s atrial fibrillation, cardiologists may recommend surgery to restore normal heart rhythm.



[1] http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291

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