Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib)
What is A-Fib?
It is an abnormal heart rhythm that involves
the atria, which are the two upper chambers
of the heart. Instead of making a strong
beat, the atria quiver or fibrillate. This is a
problem because it causes the heart beat to
become irregular. Sometimes, your heart
beat with A-Fib goes too fast. Blood does
not flow through the heart as well as it
should, which may cause it to form clots.
These blood clots may leave the heart and
enter the brain, where they can cause a
What are the symptoms of A-Fib?
You may feel light in the head, faint, weak,
short of breath, have chest pain, or feel like
your heart is beating very fast. Some people
have no symptoms at all and do not know
that they have it until it is found by a doctor.
How is A-Fib diagnosed?
A-Fib is diagnosed through an
electrocardiogram (EKG), which is a graph
of the heart’s electrical activity. It is an
easy, non-invasive test. Patches with wires
are put on your skin and the electrical
activity is recorded.
How is A-Fib treated?
The treatment goals for A-Fib may include:
ξ Keeping the heart out of A-Fib and
in a regular rhythm (known as
ξ Keeping the heart rate in a normal
range of 60-100 beats per minute
(known as rate control).
ξ Preventing blood clots
ξ Preventing other heart problems
There are many ways to treat A-Fib and
your doctor will help decide what is right for
you. Treatments could include:
ξ Drugs: Certain drugs may be used
to help slow down your heart rate.
ξ Blood thinners: Blood thinners are
drugs that can be used to prevent a
clot from forming in the heart.
ξ Cardioversion: Cardioversion is
when your heart is put back into a
normal rhythm. An electric shock is
used to “reset” your heart beat.
Sedation is used so you are not
aware of the shock.
ξ Ablation: If the drug and the
cardioversion do not work, your
doctor may want to try an ablation.
This involves sending “heat” or
“freeze” energy to the part of the
heart that causes the A-Fib, and will
change the electrical pattern of the
heart tissue. This helps the heart
return to a normal rhythm. It is done
in a hospital. Sedation is used so
you do not feel it.
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have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 9/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
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