Atrial Fibrillation Treatment

In atrial fibrillation, also called Afib, electrical signals in your heart’s upper chambers (atria) cause your atria to beat quickly and chaotically, which causes an irregular fast heart rhythm. Afib is a common type of heart rhythm disorder (arrhythmia). A heart in Afib doesn’t beat efficiently. It may not be able to pump enough blood out to your body with each heartbeat.

Symptoms

Some people with Afib have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered during a physical examination. Those who do have Afib symptoms may experience:

  • Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flopping in your chest 
  • Decreased blood pressure 
  • Weakness 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Confusion 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain

Normal Heart Rhythm                                      Atrial Fibrillation

NormalHeartRhythm            Atrial Fibrillation

Treatment

You may be a candidate for a procedure or “intervention,” if medications are not effective in treating Afib. Our team includes a specially-trained cardiologist called an electrophysiologist. This cardiologist is highly trained in the area of “mapping” the irregular electrical impulses in the heart. The electrophysiologist then uses these maps to form a plan to eliminate those electrical paths with the intent of reaching a regular heart beat. Mayo Clinic Health System is the only cardiac program in this region with an electrophysiologist as part of the medical team.

  • Electrical Cardioversion: It is a procedure which involves delivery of an electrical shock to the heart while you are temporarily sedated and asleep. This shock briefly interrupts the heart’s irregular rhythm and restores the normal rhythm of the heart. It is a first-line approach following medical management of Afib. But whether you receive cardioversion depends on your symptoms as everyone’s Afib is not the same.
  • Catheter Ablation: In some people, catheter-based treatments may eliminate the Afib, while in cases of persistent or permanent Afib, catheter-based treatments may be used to control the heart rate.
  • Maze: During a maze heart surgery, a heart surgeon creates multiple cuts into the upper part of your heart (atria) in an intricate pattern, or maze. Your surgeon then stitches the incisions together to produce scars. Because the scars do not carry electrical signals, they interfere with stray electrical impulses that cause Afib. This restores your heart’s regular, coordinated heartbeat.