Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a heart rhythm problem that occurs when chaotic electrical impulses cause the heart’s two upper chambers (atria) to be out of synch with its two lower chambers (ventricles). The rapid firing of the electrical impulses from multiple areas in the atria causes the heart to beat very fast (over 400 beats/minute) and quiver (fibrillate).
Palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain, and lightheadedness are some of the common symptoms of AFib. If you experience these, it is in your best interest to seek immediate medical attention. While AFib does not lead to a heart attack, its symptoms can be similar to those thereof, and the condition itself can lead to potentially life-threatening complications (e.g., stroke and heart failure).
To confirm a diagnosis, your cardiologist will review your symptoms and medical history, perform a physical exam, and order various tests, which include electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, stress test, and chest X-ray.
There are a number of treatment options available for AFib. The type of treatment your cardiologist will recommend will depend on the underlying cause of your AFib, how long you’ve had it, and how the symptoms are affecting your quality of life. The following are some of the treatment strategies your doctor may employ to control your heart rhythm and rate and reduce your risk of developing a stroke.
Your cardiologist may start with any or a combination of these medications:
- Beta blockers or calcium channel blockers- to slow your heart rate
- Antiarrhythmics- to control your heart rhythm
- Anticoagulants- to prevent blood clots and lower your risk of developing a stroke
Cardioversion is another approach to reversing abnormal heart rhythm. It can be performed in two ways:
- Electrical cardioversion– This involves carefully delivering electric shocks to your heart through electrodes that are attached to your chest. The procedure enables your doctor to instantly determine whether your heartbeat has been successfully restored.
You will be sedated during the procedure.
- Cardioversion with medication-This type of cardioversion doesn’t involve administering electric shocks; instead, it uses antiarrhythmics to facilitate normal cardiac rhythm.
You will receive the medications either intravenously or orally and usually in the hospital for your doctor to be able to continuously monitor your heart rate.
This is a minimally invasive procedure in which your doctor will insert catheters into your groin and guide them through blood vessels all the way to your heart. The tip of the catheter generates radiofrequency energy or heat to create scar tissue, which helps restore normal electrical signals.
Cardiac ablation may eliminate the necessity for medications or implantable devices.
This procedure involves creating a pattern of scar tissue in strategic places in the heart muscle using a scalpel, radiofrequency, or cryotherapy to prevent stray electrical impulses from passing through.
Since maze is an invasive procedure, your doctor will only recommend it if your symptoms don’t respond to nonsurgical interventions, or reserve it for when you may need another type of heart surgery.
AFib Treatment in Sarasota and Bradenton, FL
At Intercoastal Medical Group, our multi-specialty team includes board certified cardiologists who utilize the most advanced interventional and traditional treatment modalities to treat the full range of cardiovascular conditions.
We also offer on-site diagnostic services, including echocardiogram, stress testing, and vascular ultrasound, as part of our commitment to delivering comprehensive care to the residents of Sarasota, Bradenton, and surrounding communities.
Give us a call to the office near you to schedule a consultation with one of our cardiologists. You may also request an appointment. Our providers accommodate patients at our Beneva Cardiology office (941-366-1888) and Cattleridge Medical Building (941-379-1850) in Sarasota and our Lakewood Ranch II office (941-538-0088) in Bradenton.