Over 5.1 million people suffer from atrial fibrillation and some of them don’t even know it. Have you ever felt your heart flutter or experienced a racing heart beat in the middle of the night? If so, you might have a heart arrhythmia, or irregular heart beat, classified as atrial fibrillation.
Saint Vincent Heart and Vascular Center's atrial fibrillation (AF) program serves as the region's gold standard in the diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation. If you are newly diagnosed with AF or think it could be better managed, schedule an appointment with one of our electrophysiologists to learn about the new minimally invasive treatment options available. Our electrophysiologists are also available throughout the region in Corry, Meadville and Westfield. To schedule an appointment with one of Saint Vincent's Atrial Fibrillation experts, call 814- 456-9197.
What is “Atrial Fibrillation?”
Atrial fibrillation (or AF) is the most common irregular heart rhythm in the United States. During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers (the atria) beat chaotically and irregularly, out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles). This causes an irregular heart beat. This irregular heart beat does not allow for the heart to pump blood consistently and can lead to pooling or clotting which in turn can lead to more serious health issues.
What Are the Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation?
You may have atrial fibrillation without having any symptoms at all.
If you have symptoms, they may include:
- Heart palpitations (a sudden pounding, fluttering, or racing feeling in the chest)
- Lack of energy; feeling over-tired
- Dizziness (feeling faint or light-headed)
- Chest discomfort ( pain, pressure, or discomfort in the chest)
- Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing during normal activities or even at rest)
What Causes Atrial Fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation is associated with many conditions, including:
- High blood pressure
- Coronary artery disease (hardening of the heart arteries)
- Heart valve disease
- Having undergone heart surgery Chronic lung disease
- Heart failure Cardiomyopathy (disease of heart muscle that causes heart failure)
- Congenital (present at birth) heart disease
- Pulmonary embolism (blood clot in lungs)
In at least 10% of people with AF, no underlying heart disease is found. In these people, AF may be related to alcohol or excessive caffeine use, stress, certain drugs, electrolyte or metabolic imbalances or severe infections. In some people, no identifiable cause can be found.
How Is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?
Four tests are used to diagnose atrial fibrillation, including:
- Holter monitor
- Portable event monitor (also called a loop recorder)
- Transtelephonic monitor
These monitoring devices help your doctor learn if you are having irregular heartbeats, what kind they are, how long they last, and what may be causing them.
What are the treatment options for atrial fibrillation?
At Saint Vincent Heart and Vascular Center, we offer a comprehensive treatment plan specifically designed to manage your atrial fibrillation. With a dedicated team of experts and the region’s most cutting edge technology, Saint Vincent provides a range of treatment options for atrial fibrillation, including:
- Medical management
- Cardioversion to shock the heart back into a normal rhythm
- Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators that bring the heart back into a proper rate and rhythm
- Catheter-based ablations to block the areas of the heart that are causing atrial fibrillation
- The maze and mini-maze surgical procedure to restore normal blood flow
To learn more about the treatment options available, or to speak with an electrophysiologist about your care, contact Saint Vincent Consultants in Cardiovascular Disease, LLC at 814-453-7767. To speak with a cardiovascular surgeon about the maze procedures available, contact Saint Vincent Cardiovascular Surgery at 814-456-9197.
To learn more about Saint Vincent Heart and Vascular Center’s electrophysiologists and atrial fibrillation, log onto www.saintvincenthealth.com/HeartTeam.