Atrial Fibrillation | AFib

When your heart beats too fast and irregularly, you could have atrial fibrillation.

AFib needs evaluation and treatment, because it can lead to serious complications, including heart failure and stroke.

What is atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a type of heart arrhythmia, a condition affecting the heart rhythm. With AFib, the heart beats rapidly and irregularly. AFib occurs in the heart’s two upper chambers called the atria. They fibrillate, or move much too fast.    

Learn more about AFib

Atrial fibrillation can be complex condition to treat. Learn about your treatment options and prevention.

AFib Symptoms

What are AFib symptoms?

Atrial fibrillation may have no symptoms.

People with symptoms may have:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Hard time exercising
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Stroke

AFib Diagnosis

Diagnosing atrial fibrillation

Your provider will do a complete medical evaluation to diagnose atrial fibrillation.

Patients will be asked about their medical history and undergo a physical exam.

Diagnostic tests may be ordered, including:

  • Blood tests

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

  • Holter monitor or event monitor

  • Stress test

  • Echocardiogram

  • Chest X-ray

AFib Treatments

Treating atrial fibrillation

Treatment for AFib includes preventing blood clots from forming and restoring a normal heartbeat. Your doctor also will want to treat any conditions that can cause or raise the risk of atrial fibrillation. Treatment can include:

  • Lifestyle changes

  • Medication

  • Medical procedures

AFib Treatment Types & Procedures

Convergent procedure: The Cardiovascular Institute at Maine Medical Center offers patients with atrial fibrillation a new treatment called the convergent procedure. The procedure often helps people who’ve tried other forms of treatment without success.

The convergent procedure uses radiofrequency to create scar tissue on the heart that will block abnormal signals. A cardiac surgeon and electro-physiologist work together as a team. The procedure is done through a small incision in the abdomen. Talk to your provider to find out if the convergent procedure is right for you.

Watchman: Maine Medical Center is the only hospital in northern New England to offer the Watchman device for people with atrial fibrillation seeking an alternative to taking blood thinners. The Watchman Left Atrial Appendage Closure is implanted in the left atrial appendage of the heart. It will keep harmful blood clots from entering your blood stream.

Ask your doctor if the Watchman device may be right for you.

Catheter ablation: The most effective treatment for some arrhythmias is to destroy the tissue in the heart where the short circuit that’s causing the rhythm disturbance starts. This non-surgical procedure is called ablation, and it involves threading a catheter through a blood vessel to locate the problem using fluoroscopy (a type of X-ray). Through the catheter, the specialist then delivers either radiofrequency energy to cauterize (burn), or intense cold (cryotherapy) to freeze and destroy a small amount of tissue, which helps restore a healthy heart rhythm. Catheter ablation is successful in a high percentage of cases, eliminating the need for open-heart surgeries or long-term drug therapies in many patients.

AFib Complications

Atrial fibrillation complications

Atrial fibrillation can lead to stroke, heart failure and other complications.

  • Stroke: A blood clot can form in the atria and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

  • Blood clots: Clots can travel to other parts of the body, causing poor blood flow to a limb, for example.

  • Heart failure: The heart may not supply enough blood to the lungs and body, leading to a buildup of fluid in parts of the body and to heart failure.

AFib Prevention

Having a healthy lifestyle can help to lower your risk of heart disease and prevent atrial fibrillation.

This includes:

  • Healthy low-fat, low-sugar diet with a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables
  • Quitting tobacco
  • Exercise and physical activity
  • Having a healthy weight
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Taking medication as prescribed
Cardiovascular Institute at Maine Medical Center

Tradition Of Excellence In Cardiac Care

The Cardiovascular Institute at Maine Medical Center is a nationally recognized cardiac center that offers treatment to both adults and children for arrhythmias. Learn more here

Do you have questions about heart health?

Connect with a Health Educator, and ask your questions.

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