Symptoms of atrial fibrillation, Afib treatment, Afib ablation

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Afib, Arrhythmia, Cardiology, Medicine

What are afib symptoms?

Afib can feel like

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation (afib) can be different for everyone. The same irregular heart rhythm can cause severe symptoms in one person and literally nothing in others. The most common symptom of afib is fatigue, but people with afib can also feel their heart racing (palpitations), shortness of breath, chest pain, and even anxiety.


Symptoms of afib can be fatigue, shortness of breath and palpitations.
The most common symptom of atrial fibrillation is fatigue.

Afib treatments

There are medications available that can help treat the heart so that afib happens much less often; this can lead to an improvement in symptoms. These medications are called “antiarrythmics”, and as a group have only a modest ability to help and several potential side effect. The most common and powerful of these medications is called Amiodarone.

Amiodarone side effects: thyroid problems, skin color changes, and lung scaring

Although amiodarone is very effective at controlling atrial fibrillation, its down side is that it can potentially cause serious side effects. Amidorone can affect the thyroid gland, making it either over-or underactive. Also, taking amiodarone for a long time can lead to changes in skin coloration and lead to an untreatable condition that scars the lungs permanently.

Over the last two decades, atrial fibrillation has also been treated with a procedure called an ablation. The ablation procedure was invented in the 1990s and has been dramatically improved over time. It can offer patients improvement in symptoms and mortality while reducing the need for medications and their side effects. 

Atrial fibrillation ablations can improve symptoms and reduce mortality while at the same time reducing the need for medications and their side effects.

With an ablation, doctors can precisely target the root of the problem that causes afib. Using space age technology, doctors trace the abnormal electrical discharges that provoke the irregular heart beat and locate the parts of the heart where they occur. Up to 85% of these happen in the part of the heart that receives blood from the lungs: the pulmonary veins . Once they locate these trigger areas, doctors then enter the heart using a minimally invasive approach. Inside the atrium they target and zap or “ablate” these abnormal trigger areas while leaving the normal parts alone.

How afib ablations are done: the pulmonary veins.

How effective are atrial fibrillation ablations?

The earlier the problem is treated the more effective an ablation will be.

90% effective at treating afib that comes and goes, called “paroxysmal”.
70-80% effective at treating “persistent” afib that has been occurring for less than one year.
60% effective at treating afib that has been happening for over a year.

Since 2016, the procedure of afib ablation has begun to expand to include the left atrial appendage. When the left atrial appendage is ablated in addition to the ablation around the pulmonary veins, the procedure’s effectiveness improves by approximately 20%. Many studies have shown that this updated ablation procedure is safe and does not increase the risks related to ablation.

afib ablations can be effective up to 90%

Regardless of how long afib has been going on, it is never too late for treatment. Even in those who have had it for a long time, reducing the amount of time the heart stays in afib can lead to an improvement in symptoms.  

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Last Modified: Jan 22, 2018 @ 1:03 am
About the Author
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Jorge Romero M.D. F.A.C.C. F.H.R.S.

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Jorge Romero, MD, is an Attending Physician and Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Arrhythmia Service of the Cardiology Division at the MontefioreEinstein Center for Vascular Care. He specializes in the treatment of complex arrhythmias, particularly in catheter ablation of ventricular tachycardia and atrial fibrillation using cutting-edge technology. Dr. Romero is a member of the American Heart Association (AHA), and a fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society (FHRS) and the American College of Cardiology (FACC).

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Jose Taveras M.D. F.A.C.C.

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Dr. Taveras is a non-invasive cardiologist in the Montefiore-Einstein Center for Heart and Vascular Care in Bronx, New York. He trained in both internal medicine and pediatrics and is currently an assistant professor of medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Dr. Taveras is a fellow of the American College of Cardiology. He is the co-creator of Doctablet.

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