Atrial Fibrillation. What You Should now
Atrial Fibrillation or Irregular Heart Beat.
The heart is made up of four chambers, two upper ones called atria and two lower ones called ventricles. These are in effect four separate muscular pumps and in order for the heart to operate efficiently these must contract in a coordinated, rhythmic and systematic manner.
To achieve this syncretisation an electric impulse is passed around the heart activating each pump in turn and at the correct time. When there is Atrial Fibrillation or AFib this is not happening. Rather the atria, the upper chambers, are operating in a chaotic and disorientated fashion contracting or pumping out of syncretisation with the rest of the heart
How is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?
- The patient may be aware of an irregular heart beat and report same to the doctor.
- It can be diagnosed by feeling the pulse and noting chaotic rhythm.
- It can be diagnosed using a stethoscope.
- It can be confirmed with an ECG tracing.
What are the causes of Atrial Fibrillation?
- Raised blood pressure.
- Myocardial Infarction – heart attack.
- Coronary artery disease.
- Diseased heart valves or congenital heard disease.
- Over-active thyroid gland – hyperthyroidism.
- Certain medications and stimulants like caffeine, alcohol or nicotine.
- No known cause. This is referred to as Lone Atrial Fibrillation.
What are the dangers of A Fibrillation?
- Atrial Fibrillation causes an increased risk of stroke. Because the atria are not emptying fully, blood tends to pool in them and static blood has an increased tendency to clot. Hence the increased risk of a clot breaking loose and causing a stroke.
- Increased risk of heart failure. A fibrillating heart is not an efficient pump. Back pressure can occur and this causes the heart to have to work even harder giving rise to the classical symptoms of heart failure which is shortness of breath and swelling of ankles.
How is A Fib managed or treated?
- Life style changes. These will include quitting smoking, reducing alcohol intake, reducing coffee and other stimulants, loosing weight and getting fit.
- Medications. There are a range of medications that help the heart revert back to sinus or normal rhythm. Under the guidance of a cardiologist a medication may be found to fix A fibrillation.
- Cardioversion. Under a light aesthetic an electric current is passed through the heart. This may literally shock the heart back into a normal rhythm.
- Sinus ablation. This is a surgical method of destroying the tissue within the heart that is sending out the wrong electrical signals that’s causing the problem.
- Where A Fib can not be fixed then the patient is placed on anticoagulants like Warfarin or Aspirin to reduce the risk of stroke.
If you have been recently diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation and are wondering about how things might go, then we are here to help and advise.