On December 11, 1999, Bill Bradley had to cancel scheduled campaign events and go see a cardiologist in Redwood City. He had an irregular heartbeat due to atrial fibrillation. The abnormal heartbeat corrected itself without treatment.
Mr. Bradley was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation in 1996, the last year he served in the U.S. Senate. He is not the first prominent political figure to have atrial fibrillation. George H. Bush developed it while he was President. In Pres. Bush's case, it was brought on by overactivity of his thyroid gland.
In Sen. Bradley's case, the atrial fibrillation had no known cause. It is called idiopathic atrial fibrillation.
Mr. Bradley had been taking Procanbid to keep his heart beat regular. (Procanbid is the brand name for an extended- release form of procainamide, a venerable drug for atrial fibrillation.) He had reportedly forgotten to take one of his two daily Procanbid pills.
Another treatment for an attack of atrial fibrillation is cardioversion. It uses an electrical shock to revert the heartbeat to normal. Between 1996 and 1998, Mr. Bradley had four episodes of atrial fibrillation and twice had cardioversion.
The main purpose of this article is not to cover the campaign nor to emphasize Sen. Bradley's health status -- he resumed campaigning and said he was "feeling great" -- but to provide an in-depth reference to atrial fibrillation to which you may refer.
Atrial fibrillation is worth knowing about. It is "the most common abnormality of the heart rhythm." Around "a half million new cases" of atrial fibrillation" are diagnosed in the U.S. and "billions of dollars" are spent in this country on the diagnosis and treatment of this condition every year. "(S)ignificant advances" have been made in the diagnosis and the treatment of atrial fibrillation.
For more information, please visit MedicineNet.com's Atrial Fibrillation Center.
Medical Editor, MedicineNet.com