Atrial Fibrillation: The Run Away HeartheadingContent

Posted on September 04, 2015

medical heart imageAre you feeling like your heart is fluttering away from you? I have felt my heart pound out of my chest during tense moments and at the sight of my first love. Unfortunately, many people experience this for reasons other than stress or romance.

Millions of people in the United States have a condition called atrial fibrillation, or AFib, for short. This is one of the most common heart rhythm disorders in the United States and it is growing in prevalence.  AFib can affect people in all age groups, but approximately 70 percent of those with AFib are over 65 years of age. Young adults are not immune for reasons that are not entirely clear, including competitive athletes who are also susceptible, and many times disabled by AFib. It can diminish their ability to perform at elite levels.

Palpitations, breathlessness, chest pain, dizziness and worst of all, fatigue, can be commonplace in the AFib patient. If all was not bad enough already, these patients have a higher rate of stroke than the average person. Having AFib is a huge disability to many people.

Quality of life is important and as doctors, we have not been able to provide that to a growing population of AFib sufferers.

Previously, internists or cardiologists would start a medication regimen that would aim to control the “run away heart.” Many of these medications come with both the risk of harmful side effects, such as an increase in the risk of bleeding, and they can be quite expensive. Many times if skips and irregular heartbeats are able to be controlled with medications, patients are still left feeling listless and fatigued. This is not always from the AFib, but rather from the side effects of the prescribed medications. This prompts another visit to the doctor, and now what….a pacemaker.

A pacemaker is a permanent device implanted in your heart to control your now slow heart rate, improve your fatigue, but oh by the way, you still have AFib! One problem now became two.  Frustration can set in, but hope is not lost.

Cardiac Ablation is a procedure performed by doctors trained in heart rhythm disorders, called electrophysiologists, who can treat AFib without ever having to make an incision in the skin to do it. Catheters or small tubes are inserted from the groin and travel to the heart to locate and destroy the abnormal electrical signals which trigger AFib. The success of controlling symptoms and improving quality of life can be superior. This is advanced care for a difficult problem that is economical, effective, and most of all, helpful for patient’s with AFib by regaining control of their life.