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Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is the most common type of irregular heartbeat. AFib is characterized by rapid, abnormal movements of the heart's upper two chambers that throw off the heart's normal synchronization with the lower chambers. People affected by AFib may feel their heart racing (palpitations), shortness of breath, weakness, lightheadness, weakness or chest pain. Unfortunately, AFib is also the most common cause of preventable stroke in the United States. AFib is also associated with the risk of heart enlargement and eventual weakening of the heart muscle leading to heart failure.
At Einstein Healthcare Network, our Electrophysiology Team specialize in comprehensive, personalized treatment for AFib. Depending on your condition and other factors, your doctor may recommend treating your AFib with blood thinners (anticoagulants) to reduce the risk of stroke or medications to reduce the impact of AFib. Alternatively, your doctor may offer a non-surgical, minimally-invasive procedure known as a catheter ablation to treat and potentially cure AFib. Perhaps your doctor may offer implantation of a Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure Device to reduce the risk of stroke without the need for long-term blood thinners
Regardless of your background, you can trust that the Einstein Electrophysiology Team will offer you the right treatment for you.
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Our skilled team of Electrophysiologists are experts and pioneers in procedures to treat atrial fibrillation.
In patients who are symptomatic from atrial fibrillation or already suffering from heart failure or heart damage, ablation may be considered. AFib Catheter Ablation (also known as pulmonary vein isolation) targets the faulty electrical signals causing the arrhythmia, aiming to precisely destroy these areas.
In this procedure, the doctor threads long, thin tubes (catheters) into the heart and applies electrical energy to cause small scars in certain parts of the heart muscle, which disrupt or eliminate the erratic electrical signals in your heart.
Treatment for atrial fibrillation usually improves your symptoms, such as fatigue and shortness of breath. In some situations, it can improve the function of your heart, reduce the risk of stroke and even potentially extend life. Without treatment, atrial fibrillation tends to get worse over time.
During an atrioventricular (AV) node catheter ablation, your doctor uses catheters to destroy tissue an area of your heart called the AV node. This tissue is the electrical connection between the upper chambers (atria) and lower chambers (ventricles). The scar tissue prevents the atria from sending rapid AFib impulses to the ventricles. Because the heart will slow down considerably after this procedure, your doctor will usually recommend placement of a pacemaker.
In patients who are particularly symptomatic from atrial fibrillation (altered heart signals), surgical correction may be considered. A Maze procedure is a surgical intervention that creates areas of scar tissue that block the abnormal heart signals that create the atrial fibrillation, thereby restoring a normal heart rhythm. There are multiple Maze techniques, and this surgery may be combined with other procedures, such as pacemaker placement, to ensure a good result.
While blood thinners (anticoagulants) are the first line treatment for reducing stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation, not everyone can safely take these medications. In these patients your doctor may recommend placement of a Watchman device. This small, umbrella like device gets threaded through a vein in the leg into a specific location in the heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). Once deployed it seals off the LAA where clots typically form that lead to strokes in patients with AFib. Once the device is healed in place, you are protected against a stroke as if you were on a blood thinner (anticoagulant) without the need to be on a blood thinner.
Frequently Asked Questions
The occasional palpitation or skipped, extra, or irregular heartbeat may not be a serious problem. However, if you experience frequent or recurrent palpitations or even infrequent symptoms that are accompanied by fainting, dizziness, unusual sweating, or chest pains, this should be discussed with your doctor immediately.
If you experience an irregular heartbeat, you should be concerned if it happens frequently, if it persists, or if it is accompanied by symptoms such as chest pain, lightheadedness, sweating, or swelling in your legs. If this happens, see your doctor right away.
If you have an arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, your doctor may recommend different treatments depending on its cause and severity. Common treatments for irregular heartbeat include medications, implantable devices such as pacemakers, and specific surgical procedures.
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