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Atrial Fibrillation

The most common cardiac arrhythmia, which is an abnormal heart rhythm, is known as atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is also a cause of an irregular heartbeat, which can be identified by taking a pulse. Muscle fibrillating is caused by chaotic electrical activity in the two upper chambers of the heart.  This results in atrial fibrillation instead of achieving coordinated contraction. An electrocardiogram can be used to confirm the presence of atrial fibrillation by pinpointing an irregular ventricular rate and the absence of P waves. Atrial fibrillation in an individual becomes more likely with age. Nearly 8% of individuals over 80 have atrial fibrillation.


In atrial fibrillation, the normal electrical impulses that are normally generated by the sinoatrial node become overwhelmed by electrical impulses that are disorganized which often originate in the roots of the pulmonary veins. This leads to irregular conduction of impulses to the ventricles, which generates the heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation can occur for minutes or weeks or may be everlasting in nature. A chronic condition of atrial fibrillation is the natural tendency over time. With chronic atrial fibrillation, there is a small increase in the risk of death.


Despite having frequent episodes, some people are asymptomatic. Others may experience troubling or incapacitating symptoms. Atrial fibrillation is not immediately life threatening but it may result in chest pain, fainting, palpitations, or congestive heart failure. Because the blood tends to form clots in the poorly contracting atria (especially in the left atrial appendage), people with atrial fibrillation have an increased risk of stroke. Depending on the presence of additional risk factors, the degree of stroke risk can be up to seven times that of the average population. If no other risk factors are present, the average population is just as likely to suffer a stroke.


When dealing with atrial fibrillation there are medications that either revert the heart rhythm back to normal or slow the heart rate. Also, to convert atrial fibrillation to a normal heart rhythm, synchronized electrical cardioversion can be used. In certain individuals, surgical and catheter based therapies may also be used to prevent recurrence of atrial fibrillation in certain individuals. To protect themselves from stroke, people with atrial fibrillation often take anticoagulants such as warfarin.

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