Atrial fibrillation or AFib is the most common of all kinds of serious heart arrhythmia. The main cause behind it is abnormal electrical signals in the heart. These signals cause the upper chambers or the atria of your heart to quiver and fibrillate. This fibrillation results in irregular and fast heartbeat.
People with AFib may never have any symptoms but suffer from serious complications. The irregular beating will cause the blood to pool in your atria. This will cause clots which will travel to your brain and result in stroke. People with this condition are at five times higher risk of getting a stroke than those without this condition. AFib worsens heart conditions as well as heart failure.
However, there are several options available to treat this condition including surgery, medications and other procedures. Lifestyle changes can help in the betterment of this condition as well.
Find out below the several ways to treat AFib:
The Goals of the Treatment
Your physician will plan a treatment strategy to manage your AFib. There would be three goals primarily to address the issue:
- Restoring normal heart rate.
- Preventing blood clots.
- Restoring normal heart rhythm.
All these three goals can be achieved using medicines. However, if medicines fail to restore your heart rhythm, there are other options available for surgery or medical procedures.
Drugs to Prevent Blood Clots
One of the most common causes of premature death in patients suffering from AFib is a stroke. The increased stroke risk is a major concern. There are certain medications that your doctor would like to suggest to prevent the formation of clots that may cause a stroke. These drugs include:
The doctor would run a check on your blood regularly to ensure that the medicines are working.
Medicines to Restore Normal Heart Rate
Another important step in treating AFib is to slow down the heart rate. There are certain medicines that your doctor may prescribe to take care of this condition. These are as given below:
- Calcium channel blockers like verapamil and diltiazem.
- Beta blockers like propranolol, carvedilol, and atenolol.
- Medicines to Restore Normal Heart Rhythm
It is also important for the treatment of AFib to restore the normal heart rhythm which is also known as the sinus rhythm. There are two types of medicines which can help with it. They slow down the electrical signals in your heart. These drugs are:
- Potassium channel blockers like amiodarone.
- Sodium channel blockers like quinidine and flecainide.
- Electrical Cardioversion
There are cases where medicines cannot restore heart rhythm, or they result in several side effects. At times like this, the patient can go for electrical cardioversion. This medical procedure is painless. The doctor gives a shock to your heart in order to reset it and restore normal beat. This procedure works, but it is not permanent. You may have to continue with medicines to maintain the new and regular heartbeat.
One can resort to catheter ablation to restore sinus rhythm if the medicines do not give adequate results. A narrow catheter is added to a blood vessel to the heart. The catheter makes use of radiofrequency energy to destroy some tissue cells in the heart that gives out signals which cause abnormal heart rhythm. The normal signal of your heart can take over and fashion sinus rhythm without the abnormal signals.
A pacemaker is another option if your heart rhythm does not get normal with medicines. This electronic device is surgically placed in your chest. It regulates the heartbeat of sinus rhythm. Pacemakers are not used in all patients. It is used in patients with AFib and a slow heartbeat. This is the resort that people go to when every other option fails, and medicines do not work. This is simply because heart surgery comes with several risks.
The Maze Procedure
There is another treatment known as the Maze procedure that can be taken into consideration to treat AFib when medicines and other treatment strategies have failed to make any difference. It calls for open heart surgery. Thus, this procedure is probably performed if the patient suffers from an additional heart condition requiring surgery. The surgeon would make an incision in the atria which control the abnormal electric signals to a particular area of your heart. It thwarts the signals from getting into the atria which would cause the fibrillation. Those who have gone through this procedure do not need to take any antiarrhythmic medicines anymore, and they no longer have AFib as well in most cases.
It is important to adhere to doctor’s advice at all time. If you are not satisfied with your physician’s suggestions, you can seek a second opinion. However, never self-medicate and decide the treatment strategy on your own.