Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heartbeat, often a rapid heart rate, that causes poor blood flow. It’s the most common type of arrhythmia.
Atrial fibrillation occurs if rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the heart’s two upper chambers—called the atria to fibrillate (contract very fast and/or irregular). Blood then builds-up in the atria and isn’t pumped completely into the heart’s two lower chambers, called the ventricles. As a result, the heart’s upper and lower chambers don’t work together as they should.
People who have atrial fibrillation may not feel symptoms. However, even when atrial fibrillation isn’t noticed, it can increase the risk of stroke and possibly heart failure. Atrial fibrillation may happen rarely, or it may become a chronic heart problem that lasts for years.
Causes of Atrial Fibrillation
As you age, it’s important to be aware of the risk factors for atrial fibrillation because the chance of heart disease and related conditions like atrial fibrillation increases.
Risk factors include:
• High blood pressure
• Heart failure
• Congenital or structural heart defects
It is also important to note that atrial fibrillation is more likely in men and in people who have had a heart attack. Lifestyle habits such as drinking large amounts of alcohol, having too much caffeine, or being extremely stressed can trigger atrial fibrillation as well.
Heart Palpitations and other Symptoms
Atrial Fibrillation causes some of the heart’s chambers to contract faster than normal and when this happens they may not be able to pump enough blood to the body.
Some people experience symptoms that may include:
• Heart palpitations
• Chest pain
• Shortness of breath
• Weakness or fatigue
• Dizziness and lightheaded
The major complications that can occur if you experience atrial fibrillation are stroke and heart attack, which is why getting a diagnosis and treatment plan is important.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation in Corinth, MS
Consult with your cardiologist about getting diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. There may be a couple of options:
Cardioversion – This is a procedure your cardiologist will first try if you are diagnosed. It attempts to regulate your heart rate by sending a proper dose of electrical current to the heart at a very specific moment in the heart’s rhythm.
MAZE – If cardioversion fails to permanently treat atrial fibrillation, you may want to ask about the MAZE procedure which our surgeons perform. This is a second option after cardioversion is attempted. The thought is that if cardioversion fails once, it will most likely fail again and again. MAZE is a more permanent solution, but is more invasive. Often times the patient is put on cardiopulmonary bypass while the surgeon uses a combination of surgical incisions and/or energy sources such as heat, microwave, laser, ultrasound, or cryoprobe, to create lesions that will heal into scars that disrupt conduction. This actually scars the heart tissue to affect the electrical currents in the body, ultimately fixing the atrial fibrillation. This is something you would go to a cardiac surgeon for.