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Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AF), otherwise known as an irregular heartbeat, is one of the most common heart conditions.

During AF, the electrical impulses of the heart don’t begin in the normal area, called the atria. Instead, the electrical impulse starts from many different areas and spreads out in a chaotic manner. This causes a disorganized, irregular – and uncomfortable – heartbeat.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation present differently in different people. Some people have little or no symptoms, while others are aware the exact moment they go into AF. Many patients report feeling heart pounding, dizziness, shortness of breath, and chest discomfort. Other common symptoms are the inability to exercise and fatigue.

AF can be stressful because it’s unpredictable. Patients may be afraid to travel and attend social events for fear of having AF.

How is atrial fibrillation treated?

There are two treatment approaches for managing AF:

  • Rate controlling strategy. Several different medications help control the heart rate. This is important because fast, uncontrolled heart rates can weaken the heart muscle and cause heart failure.
  • Rhythm controlling strategy. Experts use chemical or electrical cardioversion – and possibly antiarrhythmic drug therapy – to keep your heart in a normal beating pattern. It’s important to remember that medication can control AF, but it won’t necessarily cure it.

Ablation therapy is the only treatment that offers a potential cure for arrhythmia. The other therapies are temporary ways to control AF.

Anticoagulation, or preventing blood clots from forming in the left atrium, is important to prevent strokes regardless of your treatment. Patients usually take either aspirin or warfarin, depending on the risk factors.

What is Lee Health's approach?

We offer the most advanced and effective arrhythmia treatments to our patients. We perform more treatments for atrial fibrillation than any other hospital system in the area. In many cases, the treatments we provide are not available anywhere else in the region.

At Lee Health, we have two fully equipped labs for ablation and device implants. These labs are staffed by nurses and technicians who work exclusively on heart rhythm disorders.

Who should I contact?

If you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation or believe you may have a heart rhythm disorder, call us at 239-343-6350.