Defining Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, or A-fib, is the most common irregular heart rhythm, or cardiac arrhythmia in the United States. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, approximately two million Americans suffer from A-fib, which results when multiple circuits of disorganized electrical activity in the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) take over the organized electrical activity normally generated by the heart’s sinus node. This produces a fibrillating, or quivering of the atria, as opposed to a regular heartbeat.

Although A-fib isn’t directly life threatening, it’s often debilitating, as it produces a fast, irregular pulse that can cause fatigue and contribute to additional heart problems over time, such as congestive heart failure. Other symptoms include palpitations, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, or dizziness. In many cases, A-fib greatly increases the risk of stroke; consequently, patients are often placed on blood thinners.

Just a few years ago, patients suffering from this condition were informed that they’d have to learn to live with it. However, increasing numbers of people suffering from A-fib can now be treated or even cured, thanks to innovative therapies and procedures available through The Emory Heart & Vascular Center.

Now that we’re able to successfully treat atrial fibrillation, we’re greatly improving the quality of life for our patients, reducing the number of medications they have to take, and limiting the amount of hospital trips they have to make.

Our next Heart & Vascular post will touch on the diagnosis of A-fib and arrhythmias in general.

Do you have any questions or thoughts about atrial fibrillation? If so, be sure to let me know in the comments.

About Jonathan Langberg, MD:

Dr. Langberg is the Director of Cardiac Electrophysiology at Emory University Hospital, as well as a professor of Internal Medicine. He is board certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiology, and Cardiac Electrophysiology. Dr. Langberg is a pioneer in the field of catheter ablation of arrhythmias and has published over 150 articles related to his field.

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