What is Atrial Fibrillation?
What is Atrial Fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation is a condition when the heart’s atrium (atrial) pulsates irregularly and rapidly. This condition increases the risk of blood clots, stroke, and heart failure.
In normal circumstances, the heart beats with a regular rhythm in order to drain the blood from the heart’s atrium to the ventricle of the heart, to be passed to the lungs or to the rest of the body. However, in atrial fibrillation, the electrical conduction of the heart and heart beat rhythm is disturbed, so the atria fails to drain blood into the ventricles.
Atrial fibrillation may occur due to other diseases or it may also occur to healthy people without certain medical disorders. The time span of occurrence also varies. Some only occasionally appear and last in minutes or hours, then after that it can recover by itself, which is called paroxysmal (occasional) atrial fibrillation. Others take longer, more than a week (persistent), over a year (long-standing pesistent), even chronic or permanent. For the latter three types, medications or other medical methods are required to normalize the cardiac delivery system.
Although not life-threatening, atrial fibrillation requires serious treatment to avoid more severe complications. Handling depends on the type and severity of the symptoms felt by the patient.
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Common symptoms felt by atrial fibrillation patients are heart palpitations or the heartbeat feels faster.and irregular. While other symptoms include:
- Fatigue, especially during exercise.
- Shortness of breath.
- Chest pain.
Causes of Atrial Fribrillation
Atrial fibrillation occurs when there is a disturbance in the delivery of electrical signals of the heart, where too many electrical impulses pass through the atrioventricular node (AV node) that acts as an electrical link between the atria and the ventricles. As a result, the heart rate becomes faster (about 100-175 beats per minute) of the normal heartbeat (60-100 beats per minute). This can lead to damage to the heart structure.
Some of the medical conditions suspected to be the cause of atrial fibrillation are:
- Virus infection.
- Congenital heart defects
- Unbalanced metabolism, including overactive thyroid gland.
- Lung disease, high blood pressure, and coronary heart attack.
- Exposure to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco.
- Sleep apnea (sleep apnea) disorders.
- Ever had heart surgery.
- Experiencing sick sinus syndrome, in which the heart’s electrical impulse trigger does not work normally.
- Stress resulting from a disease or surgery.
In addition to the above medical conditions, several other factors that can also make a person susceptible to atrial fibrillation are:
- There is a history of atrial fibrillation disease in the family.
- The habit of consuming alcohol.
Diagnosis of Atrial fibrillation
After conducting a physical examination and review of medical history, the doctor will make a diagnosis through several tests, including blood tests, scans the chest, electrocardiogram (ECG) with a treadmill or with holter monitor that records the activities of the heart for 24 hours, and the monitoring of the heart during a few weeks or Month with a portable EKG device. In addition, other tests that may be recommended for the diagnosis is an echocardiogram, which is non-invasive examination with sound waves to record a picture of the heart.
Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
The treatment of atrial fibrillation will be based on the patient’s medical condition, including the duration of the symptoms. The goal of treatment is to restore and maintain a heart rhythm, as well as prevent blood clots. The first way that can be done is through the provision of drugs, such as:
- Anticoagulant drugs, to prevent blood clots and overcome blood clots that have occurred. Examples of drugs usually given are aspirin and warfarin. Nevertheless, anticoagulant drugs have side effects such as the risk of bleeding.
- Heart rate control drug, to control or restore heart rate to normal position. Drugs that can be given is a beta blocker to make the heart beat more slowly (eg, atenolol, biropolol, or metoprolol), drugs calcium channel blockers to reduce the contraction of muscle cells (eg, diltiazem and verapamil) and digoxin to reduce the acceleration of the heart rate from the atria to the ventricles .
- Antiarrhythmias to prevent the occurrence of atrial fibrillation in the future. Examples of these drugs are defetilide, flecainide, propafenone, amiodarone, or sotalol. Possible side effects are dizziness, nausea, or fatigue.
In addition to drug administration, there are also several noninvasive action options (without surgery). These actions can be:
- Electrical cardioversion. In this procedure, an electric shock is given to the chest area. The electric shock will stop the heart’s electrical activity for a moment and can then restore the heartbeat to normal. This procedure is preceded by anesthesia.
- Catheter ablation. This procedure is to disable the abnormal electrical trigger points on the heart, by inserting an ablation tool with a catheter through a blood vessel in the groin area toward the heart.
- Ablation of the atriventricular nodes. This procedure is performed to disable the atrioventrucular node (AV node), so that abnormal electrical signals from the atria are not transmitted to the ventricle. With the inactivity of the AV node, the heart’s ventricle does not get an electric impulse and stops throbbing. For that, a pacemaker is installed to provide a normal electrical impulse to the ventricles.
If the above measures have not been able to overcome the problem of atrial fibrillation, then further treatment methods that may be recommended are surgical or surgical procedures, such as:
- Pacemaker installation. Pacemakers will be installed on the collarbone under the skin. Its function is to transmit electrical signals that can keep the heart rate under normal circumstances.
- Maze procedure. In this open heart surgery procedure, the doctor makes small incisions at the top of the heart. The incision will form scar tissue that can inhibit the delivery of abnormal electrical impulses that cause atrial fibrillation. As a result, too soon the heartbeat can return to normal.
Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation
Reducing the risk of atrial fibrillation can be done by applying a healthy lifestyle, among others:
- Stopping smoking.
- Eat healthy foods for the heart, and limit your intake of salt, fat, and cholesterol.
- Limit consumption of alcohol and caffeine.
- Maintain a normal weight.
- Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol cholesterol in the blood.