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Atrial fibrillation (AFib), is a common form of arrhythmia. The condition occurs when there are erratic electrical signals between the upper chambers of the heart, or atria. These signals confuse the heart's natural rhythm, causing the atria to squeeze too quickly. As a result, the heart fibrillates, or quivers.
AFib can affect anyone, but there are certain risk factors that can place patients at an increased risk. If you have any of the following, your odds of developing the condition may be higher than normal:
Many patients have no symptoms associated with AFib. However, in cases where signs are present, indicators of the condition may include:
Although many patients are unaware, AFib presents some serious health risks that can be severe or even life-threatening. Most notably, the condition increases patient risk for each of the following:
If you are experiencing symptoms related to AFib or your doctor hears an irregular heart rate during an exam, there are additional steps that will be taken to confirm a diagnose of atrial fibrillation or other form arrhythmia. In many
cases, this is accomplished by monitoring the electrical impulses of the heart and the resulting heart rhythm using an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). During this procedure, several electrodes are attached to the skin as the patient lies still for a few short minutes.
However, because the heart must be actively in AFib for an EKG to provide an accurate diagnosis, some patients may need to be monitored for longer periods of time. In these cases, patients often wear a portable monitor known as a Holter monitor for a period of 24 - 48 hours. A cardiologist can then read and interpret the tests results over that time frame to determine if any episodes of AFib have occurred.
There are many potential treatment options for AFib. Which is best will be determined based on factors such as severity, patient age, and overall health. Potential options include:
Watchman- The Watchman device is a one-time heart implant that reduces stroke risk for a lifetime and eliminates the need to take blood thinners. About the size of a quarter, the Watchman device is placed into the left atrial appendage (LAA) of the heart, where 90 percent of stroke-causing blood clots are formed. The device permanently closes off this part of the heart to keep those clots from escaping. The non-invasive procedure takes about an hour, and the post-procedure hospital stay is one to two days. Patients with AFib are five times more likely to experience a stroke, and for patients who qualify, this new treatment offers a safe alternative that eliminates long-term risks of blood thinners. Ask your doctor if Watchman may be right for you.