Caused by the irregular beating of the heart, atrial fibrillation or AFib is known to be common among people over the age of 60 years. The risk of AFib increases with the onset of multiple lifestyle diseases such as obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Lung diseases such as sleep apnea and COPD also are also potential risk factors of atrial fibrillation. People who have congenital heart problems, valvular heart disease, cardiomyopathy, and coronary artery disease may also develop AFib over time. Heart failure or cardiac attack also increases the probability of atrial fibrillation. This disorder can be temporary or can be long-lasting as well.
Depending on the type of AFib (whether it is temporary or permanent), a doctor will recommend treatments and therapies for better management of the disorder. Read on to know more about some of the common AFib treatments.
Common atrial fibrillation treatments
The goal of every AFib treatment is to prevent blood clots first. Additionally, the treatments work toward restoring the normal heart rate and normal heart rhythm. The very first line of treatment is medication, which is followed by cardioversion. In case these non-invasive treatments do not work, surgery procedures are conducted. These include ablation treatments—catheter and atrioventricular node ablation.
One of the biggest complications due to atrial fibrillation is a stroke. It has been observed that stroke is one of the major reasons for premature death in atrial fibrillation patients. Strokes are usually caused due to blood clots moving to the heart. Hence, blood thinners are often prescribed as medications for AFib. Another essential part of the treatment is to normalize the irregular heart rhythm and heart rate. Doctors usually recommend beta blockers and calcium channel blockers to restore the normal heart rate. To normalize the irregular heart rhythm, sodium channel blockers and potassium channel blockers are prescribed. These medications slow down the electrical signals in the heart to restore the normal heart rhythm.
This non-invasive atrial fibrillation treatment is prescribed for normalizing the heart rhythm when medications don’t work. This treatment involves placing paddles and patches on the chest. An electrical shock is given to reset the heart’s rhythm and restore a normal heartbeat. This is a quite painless procedure. However, it does not have long-lasting results. A person who undergoes electrical cardioversion may need to take medications as well to maintain the normalized heartbeat.
There are two types of ablation treatments—catheter and atrioventricular (AV) node. These are also used to treat atrial fibrillation when medications do not work. In the catheter ablation procedure, a narrow catheter is inserted into the heart through a blood vessel. A small amount of radiofrequency energy is transmitted through the catheter to the heart. This energy destroys a small number of tissue cells in the heart that are responsible for the irregular heart rhythm. This normalizes the heart rate.
AV node ablation treatment is done by inserting a catheter to the heart to send energy signals to the pathway between the upper chamber and the lower chamber of the heart.
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