What are the Treatment Options for Afib?

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Treatment Options for Afib

Arterial Fibrillation or Afib is a heart condition that occurs when there is a problem in the heart’s electrical activity. The Afib treatment options are available for only those patients having severe symptoms of Afib. With Afib, the heart beats rapidly, quivers or even skips beats multiple times. The heart muscles then experience difficulty in pumping blood through its chambers and out to the body. This difficulty causes blood to accumulate inside the heart and form clots, resulting in a heart stroke or other complex heart conditions.

To detect Afib, your doctor will order these tests to diagnose it:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) or echocardiogram
  • Blood tests
  • Stress Test
  • Chest X-ray

The most appropriate Afib treatment option depends on the duration you are having Afib, the intensity of the symptoms, and the cause of the condition. The general Afib treatment goals are to:

  • Reset the Heart Rhythm
  • Control the Heart Rate
  • Prevent Blood Clots

Afib Treatment To Reset Heart Rhythm

To treat Afib, the heart rate and rhythm must be reset and normalized. By conducting a procedure called Cardioversion, your doctor may be able to reset your heart to its regular sinus rhythm.

Cardioversion can be carried out in two ways:

  1. Electrical Cardioversion In this procedure, the doctors use paddles or patches placed on your chests to deliver electric shocks to your heart. Momentarily, the heart’s electric activity is stopped due to the shock. Once the heartbeat begins again, it resumes with a normal rhythm. This procedure is performed with sedation.
  2. Cardioversion with drugs– This form of treatment is done by medicine prescriptions of anti-arrhythmics that restore normal sinus rhythms.

Afib Treatment To Control Heart Rate

Surgical procedures are advised to those patients that have shown no response to the medications prescribed. Doctors recommend surgery to destroy the heart tissues that cause inconsistent or irregular electrical activity. These surgical options include:

Catheter Ablation

Arterial Fibrillation is caused by some “hot spots” in the tissues of the heart chambers. These hot spot tissues act like abnormal pacemaker cells that rapidly fire electric signals making the upper chambers of the heart to quiver instead of beating. During the catheter ablation procedure, the doctor inserts long, thin tubes or catheters through the patient’s groin and guides the tubes through blood vessels up to the heart. To destroy the hot spots, electrodes at the catheter tips use radiofrequency energy, extreme cold (cryotherapy), or heat. These electrodes correct the arrhythmia without any medications or implanting devices.

Surgical Maze Procedure

The surgical maze procedure is carried out during open heart surgery. With a scalpel, doctors make several incisions on the upper chambers of the heart to create patterns of scar tissue. As scar tissue doesn’t carry an electric pulse, it interferes arterial fibrillation. These procedures have a very high success rate, but arterial fibrillation may return.

A controlled heart rate is necessary to stabilize overall blood pressure to avoid the risk of heart strokes, cardiac arrests, and other end-organ damages.

Afib Treatment To Prevent Blood Clots

Patients that are undergoing Afib treatment are at high risk of blood clotting and thicker blood that can cause a heart stroke. The risk is even higher when the patient suffers from other heart conditions along with Afib. The remedy to prevent blood clots is by blood-thinning medicines called anticoagulants such as:

  • Warfarin
  • Dabigatran
  • Rivaroxaban
  • Apixaban

Many patients have experienced many episodes of Afib that have returned long after the treatment was given. These patients need a lifelong prescription of anticoagulants and proper medication care plans even after their rhythm has been restored to normal.

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