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Treatment Options for Atrial Fibrillation

Treating atrial fibrillation (AF) is important since AF may increase the risk of clots and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends aggressive treatment for atrial fibrillation whether you can feel symptoms or not. You and your doctor can discuss which treatment would be best for you and your heart condition.

Goals in Treating Atrial Fibrillation

The major goals in treating atrial fibrillation are:

  • Relieve AF symptoms and improve patient’s quality of life
  • Prevent blood clots to decrease the risk of stroke
  • Control the heart rate to allow the ventricles (lower heart chambers) enough time to fill with blood
  • Restore the heart rhythm to allow the atria (upper heart chambers) and ventricles to work together more efficiently

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Options

The following treatments may be prescribed to treat atrial fibrillation:

  • Medication to control the heart rate or rhythm
  • “Blood thinners” (anticoagulation therapy) to prevent blood clots from forming
  • Cardioversion (an electrical shock is delivered to the heart) during anesthesia, or through medication, to reset an abnormal heart rhythm back to normal
  • Catheter ablation to terminate abnormal electrical pathways in the heart tissue
  • Pacemakers and defibrillators (implantable) to detect and treat atrial fibrillation early and suppress the onset of AF
  • Minimally invasive (AF only) or open-chest (in conjunction with other cardiac surgery) surgical ablation to create lesions that block abnormal electrical circuits causing atrial fibrillation.

Once atrial fibrillation is thought to be suppressed or treated, care must still be taken to monitor for recurrences of AF. Even if there are no symptoms, atrial fibrillation may cause a stroke.

Talk to your doctor about which treatment options are right for you.

Deciding Not to Get Treatment

Atrial fibrillation is a serious medical condition and if left untreated, it may lead to:

To help prevent these serious events, it’s important to get your heart checked periodically even if there are no symptoms.

If you are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, talk to your doctor about which treatment options are right for you.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 21 Nov 2012

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