Westside Regional Medical Center
Founded in 1974, our facility provides comprehensive healthcare to the residents of Broward County.

Atrial Fibrillation

Heart Health

What are the signs and symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation tends to cause an irregular rapid pulse. Heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, and dizziness is often felt.

During atrial fibrillation the upper chamber is not pumping blood, it’s quivering. So, when the upper chamber quivers, blood can pool and clot, so patients who have atrial fibrillation are at higher risk of stroke.

If somebody doesn’t have symptoms and they have a-fib, it is worse because they can be in a-fib for long periods of time and not know it and can lead to an increased risk of stroke.

Older patients tend to have slower pulses, so when atrial fibrillation occurs, the pulse will often times be relatively slow and they don’t know they are in it. That’s a problem because these patients are at a high risk of stroke and don’t know until they have an EKG.         

How do you treat atrial fibrillation?

There’s a number of options you have for patients but one of those options should include, for many patients, a blood thinning drug to help prevent stroke if they have atrial fibrillation. If you want to treat the arrhythmia, there’s a number of different options that you have for treating atrial fibrillation. One is medications. And medications are antiarrhythmic medications.

The other alternative for patients with atrial fibrillation if medications fail, is catheter ablation. With catheter ablation, a catheter is inserted through a vein in the leg and can be traced up into the heart under x-ray, using three dimensional guidance systems. We can actually map the electrical system of the heart and identify these usual suspect cells, the areas in the heart where atrial fibrillation tends to come from. Once we have identified, mapped, and identified areas where atrial fibrillation tends to come from, we can then apply the catheter to these areas.

There are other treatments available for atrial fibrillation aside from the catheter ablation. One of the treatments is a procedure called the Maze Procedure. With this procedure, the chest is opened surgically, the heart’s exposed and the areas causing atrial fibrillation are basically destroyed with a scalp. The heart is then sewn back together, the chest is closed, and these abnormal areas which cause atrial fibrillation have been taken out with a surgeon’s scalpel. This procedure will work very well for atrial fibrillation.