Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation

Having atrial fibrillation, a heart problem that causes what is known as an irregular heartbeat, is the leading risk for a stroke. In fact, those with this disease have a heavily increased risk of heart disease: about 20 percent of all people who have strokes suffer from this problem, making it the single biggest contributor. Even worse, people have a 500 percent increased risk of stroke and even higher risk of heart attacks. Sometimes also called a "quivering" beat or arrhythmia, it can cause a variety of heart problems, including blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and heart attacks. The scary thing about this condition is that it often shows no symptoms until it is too late - it is estimated that nearly three million people are living with this disease, many of which may not even realize it. Understanding the treatments for this disease is so crucial to avoiding serious heart health problems.

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  1. When Is Rate Control Used?
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    Rate control is another medicine-based treatment that slows down the heart beat and helps decrease it to a normal level. Typically, medicines like beta blockers and calcium blockers are used. It is typically utilized when patients have arrhythmia that forces their heart to pump faster than is normal.

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  2. Who Can Use Rhythm Control?
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    When a person does not respond well to rate control, they receive rhythm control. This is typically done by utilizing a variety of heart medicines, including amiodarone, sotalol, and others. These are designed to control the rhythm of the heart, but are often considered a last-ditch effort as they can otherwise harm the health of those receiving them.

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  3. What Is Electrical Cardioversion?
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    This procedure uses low-energy shocks to temporarily halt your heart and cause it to fall into a regular rhythm. It is done in a very carefully-controlled environment and is often paired with clot-breaking medicines in order to make it more effective. For those who can't take rate control or rhythm control medications, this is a powerful alternative.

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  4. How Is This Method Utilized?
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    First a person receives a blood-thinning medicine to decrease their risk of clots. Then they need to quit smoking, reduce stress, and try to eat more healthy foods with less salt. Then they are taken to a doctor where a small shock will be passed through their chest. Anti-arrhythmic medicines, like Dofetilide, Flecainide, and Propafenone will then be prescribed.

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  5. Are There Risks Involved In These Treatments?
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    As with any treatment method, there are risks. Blood-thinning medications can cause you to bleed excessively when cut even in a minor way. Heart medicines can cause nausea, confusion, low blood pressure, and other problems. Electrical cardioversion and catheter ablation can cause minor damage to the heart. However these problems are typically rare and are worth the risk.

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  6. What Are The Most Common Treatments For Atrial Fibrillation?
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    The most common treatment methods for atrial fibrillation include the following: blood clot prevention, rhythm control, electrical cardioversion, and catheter ablation. There are many different variations on each of these treatments, each of which will be discussed in more depth below.

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  7. How Does Blood Clot Prevention Work?
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    Blood clot prevention is accomplished primarily through a variety of blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin. These medicines prevent blood clots by making it impossible for blood to collect in the necessary manner for clotting. Regular blood tests are necessary with this treatment to ensure the medicines are working properly.

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  8. When Is Catheter Ablation Used?
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    Catheter ablation is the use of a small wire to send radio energy through your body to destroy tissue that may be causing atrial fibrillation. This wire is inserted through a vein in your leg and threaded all the way to the heart. Sometimes this procedure requires the insertion of a pacemaker to keep the heart pumping properly.

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  9. How Does A Doctor Choose A Treatment Method?
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    Typically the least invasive procedure is chosen first - this is usually considered blood clot prevention. If the problem persists, more invasive treatments are necessary to protect your health. Catheter ablation is usually used last, because it has the highest risk of damaging the heart. However it can work as a more permanent solution to the problem.

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