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.
The most common symptom of atrial fibrillation is fatigue.
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.
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 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.
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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