Did You Know?
Sometimes the first symptom of Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) a patient experiences is a stroke or mini-stroke. Symptoms of AFib commonly include a racing, pounding heart rate, palpitations, light-headedness, shortness of breath, or in some patients, there are no noticeable symptoms at all.
How Does AFib Increase Stroke Risk?
When the heart is in AFib, the atria do not contract in a strong, rhythmic way which allows blood to pool in the atria and blood clots to form. When the clot is pumped out of the heart it can travel to the brain and block blood flow. Patients with AFib have a 5X greater risk of stroke.
How is AFib Diagnosed?
A standard EKG during a check-up may catch the irregular rhythm or perhaps a smartwatch. However, for those who report symptoms or have suffered a TIA or stroke with no known cause, a holter monitor can be ordered to potentially catch and record the AFib in action. Irregular heart rhythms can be intermittent and a 24 or 48-hour holter may be inconclusive. An implanted loop recorder, Reveal LINQ, can be placed and wirelessly monitor heart rhythms for up to three years. The LINQ is a third the size of a AAA battery allowing patients to go about their lives and CVI cardiologists to see when and how often an irregular rhythm occurs. LINQ implantation and removal is a simple office-based procedure under local anesthetic.
Patients with AFib will likely receive blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Lifestyle changes may be recommended, such as regular exercise, weight control, and reduced alcohol consumption. Medications to keep the heart rate or rhythm under control are usually prescribed. However, these are not without side effects. Patients experiencing continuous AFib may have a cardioversion to shock the heart back into normal rhythm. Those with recurrent AFib may be candidates for a catheter ablation procedure to stop the irregular rhythm before it starts. For patients who are unable to tolerate blood thinners due to an increased risk of bleeding, the WATCHMAN is a minimally invasive catheter procedure that stops most clots from forming in the atria.
All of our cardiologists at the Cardiovascular Institute see patients with Atrial Fibrillation however only Cardiac Electrophysiologists can offer catheter ablation procedures to treat this common arrhythmia. Doctors Nghia Hoang, DO and Saeed Khaja, DO perform ablations at Ascension Sacred Heart Bay in Panama City, Florida.
To learn more, please see these local media stories with our physicians: