Auricular fibrillation; A-fib
Sometimes, atrial fibrillation may need emergency treatment in the hospital to get the heart back into normal rhythm. This treatment may involve electrical shocks or special drugs.
Daily medicines taken by mouth are used in two different ways:
- To slow the irregular heartbeat. These medications may include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digitalis.
- To keep atrial fibrillation from coming back. These medications may work well in many people, but they can have serious side effects. Many patients go back to atrial fibrillation, even while taking these medications.
Blood thinners such as heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and dabigatran (Pradaxa) reduce the risk of a blood clot traveling in the body (such as a stroke). Because these drugs increase the chance of bleeding, not everyone can use them. Antiplatelet drugs such as aspirin or clopidogrel may also be prescribed. Your doctor will consider your age and other medical problems when deciding which drug is best.
A procedure called
- When medicines are not controlling the symptoms, or are causing side effects
- When the condition will become dangerous if not treated
- As a possible cure for some patients with atrial flutter
You may need a heart
The disorder can usually be controlled with treatment. Many people with atrial fibrillation do very well.
However, atrial fibrillation tends to return and get worse. It may come back even with treatment.
- Fainting (syncope), if atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter cause the pulse to be too quick or slow
- Heart failure
- Stroke, if clots break off and travel to the brain (drugs that thin the blood such as heparin and warfarin can reduce the risk)
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation or flutter.
Review Date: 05/18/2011
Reviewed By: Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.