Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) facts

  • Atrial fibrillation (also referred to as AFib) is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm.
  • AFib is caused by abnormal electrical discharges (signals) that generate chaotically throughout the upper chambers of the heart (atria).
  • AFib reduces the ability of the atria to pump blood into the ventricles, and usually causes the heart to beat too rapidly.
  • One-half million new cases of atrial fibrillation are diagnosed every year in the U.S., and billions of dollars are spent annually on its diagnosis and treatment.
  • Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include:
  • Complications of atrial fibrillation include heart failure and stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation can be diagnosed by physical examination, electrocardiogram, Holter monitor, or patient-activated event recorder.
  • Treatment of AFib is directed toward controlling underlying causes, slowing the heart rate and/or converting the heart to normal rhythm, and stroke prevention using blood-thinning medications.
  • Medications are commonly used in the longer term to control or prevent recurrence of AFib, but medications may not be effective and may have intolerable side effects.
  • Electrical cardioversion is successful in over 95% of patients with AFib, but 75% of patients have a recurrence of AFib within 1 to 2 years.
  • Some doctors may leave patients in AFib for the longer term provided the heart rate is under control, blood flow is adequate, and blood is adequately thinned with medications.
  • Non-medication treatments of atrial fibrillation include pacemakers, AV node ablation, atrial defibrillators, and the Maze procedure.
  • Pulmonary vein isolation shows promise for the treatment of atrial fibrillation and has a high rate of success; however, longer-term experience is necessary. Continue Reading
Reviewed on 5/27/2015
Atrial Fibrillation Pictures Slideshow: Visual Guidelines to Causes, Tests and Treatment


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