Let your heart beat in an orderly rhythm, bid goodbye to atrial fibrillation

Updated at: Jan 07, 2018
Let your heart beat in an orderly rhythm, bid goodbye to atrial fibrillation

The treatment for atrial fibrillation is dependent on its severity and symptoms. Some options include medicines, medical procedures, and lifestyle changes.

Nagen Singh
Heart HealthWritten by: Nagen SinghPublished at: Oct 04, 2017

Do you ever experience that your heart beats faster than normal even when you're at complete ease? If you do, then these could be the symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF). It is normally characterized by a dysfunction of the heart tissue or nodes, by a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system or by a combination of both. However today there are treatments available to alleviate this cardiac crisis.

A person is advised to consult a doctor or a cardiac specialist in case of following symptoms:
•    Heart palpitations (feeling that your heart is racing or fluttering)
•    Awareness that the heart is beating
•    Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
•    Abdominal pain
•    Shortness of breath
•    Lightheadedness
•    Fatigue or lack of energy
•    Exercise intolerance

The treatment for atrial fibrillation (AF) is completely dependent on its severity and symptoms. A person with normal heart will have separate treatment than a person with complex heart disease and AF. General treatment options include medicines, medical procedures, and lifestyle changes.

Specific types of treatments for AF

Blood clot prevention

There are15 percent chances of having a stroke caused by a blood clot in case of atrial fibrillation. It is normally a problem with people with elevated AF.

There are blood-thinning medicines to prevent blood clots such as warfarin (Coumadin), dabigatran, heparin, and aspirin. The doctors suggest these medicines when there is a danger of blood clots in the atria of the heart which may stop the blood circulation. Regular blood tests are suggested to people prescribed to blood-thinning medicines.

Heart rate control

There are several medicines available to slow down the rate of heart beat for proper functioning of the heart.
Rate control is the most genuine treatment for maximum patients with AF. A controlled heart rate stabilizes the operations of cardiac system. The patient feels relaxed by using medicines to control heart rate. These medicines include beta blockers such as metoprolol and atenolol, calcium channel blockers (diltiazem and verapamil), and digitalis (digoxin). There are numerous other medicines for this rationale.

Rhythm control

The key problem which occurs because of atrial fibrillation is of restoring and maintaining a normal heart rhythm. To confront these tribulations there is a clinical approach recommended for people who aren't doing well with rate control. This treatment is also recommended to people with recent diagnosis of AF. Doctors use medicines or procedures to control the heart's rhythm by using antiarrhythmic drugs or electrical cardioversion.


Several antiarrhythmic drugs are given to patients to restore a normal rhythm. These drugs include flecainide, ibutilide, amiodarone, sotalol, Rhythmol and dofetilide. However, these drugs can restore only 50 percent to 60 percent of the normal rhythm time.

These medicines are normally not suggested to the patients who have underlying heart diseases and a disease called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. Doctors start medication with small doses and gradually increase the doses to control the symptoms. These medicines are available in the form of pills, tablets and injections.

There are various side effects attached to the use of these medicines. Patients may also be kept under doctor’s supervision in a hospital. Patients with a history of AF more than 6 months are less likely to get back the normal heart rhythm.

Restoring a normal rhythm also becomes less likely if the atria are enlarged or if any underlying heart disease worsens. In these cases, the chance that AF will recur is high, even if you're taking medicine to help convert AF to a normal rhythm.

E procedures or electrical cadioversion for normal heart rhythm

During this procedure, low-energy shocks are given to the patient’s heart to trigger a normal rhythm. As it is an uncomfortable treatment for the patient’s body, the patient is temporarily put to sleep before electrical shocks.

Catheter ablation for rhythm control

It may be used in case when medicines or electrical cardioversion don't work. It is a complicated process which includes a wire insertion through a vein in the leg or arm and threaded to the heart.

Radio waves are transmitted through inserted wire to wipe out uncharacteristic tissues that may be unsettling the normal flow of electrical signals. It is recommended to have a transthoracic echocardiogram (TEE) before catheter ablation to check for blood clots.

Doctors use catheter ablation also to destroy the atrioventricular (AV) node which passes the heart's electrical signals from the atria to the ventricles (the heart's lower chambers). But to perform this treatment the doctors need to surgically implant a device called pacemaker which regulates the normal heart beat in the patient’s heart.

Maze surgery to regulate cardiac Rhythm

An open heart surgery needs to be accomplished by an expert surgeon to makes small cuts or burns in the atrial parts. It is normally not practiced because of complications. These cuts or burns prevent the spread of disorganized electrical signals.

There are various approaches towards reducing the risk factors related to atrial fibrillation. Doctors recommend treatments and medicines for over active thyroid glands which may cause lower or higher blood pressure. There are few quintessential lifestyle changes which are suggested by doctors in normal case of AF that may increase the heart rate and also can help reduce risk of AF:

•    A healthy diet
•    Lesser salt intake (to help lower blood pressure)
•    Quitting smoking
•    Reducing stress
•    Limiting or avoiding alcohol
•    Avoiding caffeine or other stimulants

Image source : Shutterstock


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