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Cardiology Arrhythmias

Atrial Fibrillation Clinic in Dubai at CMC Hospital Dubai

Atrial fibrillation (Afib or AF) is an irregular heart rhythm that begins in the upper chambers of an individual’s heart or atria. A person experiencing atrial fibrillation has his/her normal cycle of electrical impulses in the heart interrupted which results in a quick, erratic heartbeat and inefficient blood flow from the atria to the lower chambers (ventricles).

Types of Atrial Fibrillation

The following are the three main types of atrial fibrillation:

  • Persistent Afib: This type lasts for more than one week and requires medical intervention
  • Paroxysmal Afib: Lasts less than a week and typically goes away on its own
  • Long-standing persistent Afib: Lasts for more than a year. This type is normally difficult to treat

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Afib might not manifest in most patients. Symptoms of Afib are determined by how fast the ventricles are beating. An individual may not feel anything if the heart is beating at a normal or slightly faster rate. However, if the ventricles beat faster, then the following symptoms may present:

  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • An irregular heartbeat

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Causes of Afib include:

  • Coronary artery disease
  • A trigger heartbeat
  • Damage to the heart’s tissue
  • A family history of Afib

However, there may be no apparent cause in some Afib cases.

Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

To diagnose atrial fibrillation, the doctor will inquire about the patient’s diet, physical activity, family history, any symptoms ever experienced and risk factors. These are essential tools that can help the doctor carry out a definitive diagnosis.

The doctor will then give the patient a physical examination that will include:

  • Listening to the patient’s lungs to detect heart failure or infection
  • Examining the feet or legs to check for any swelling. This will help identify heart failure
  • By using a stethoscope, the doctor will listen to the patient’s heart rhythm
  • Checking the patient’s pulse and blood pressure
  • Determining thyroid problems by measuring the size of the patient’s thyroid gland

Tests used in diagnosing Afib include:

  • Blood tests: Simple blood tests can be used to check potassium and thyroid hormone levels which can help the doctor determine the best medication for the patient based on the liver and kidney functions.
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG): This is normally the first test carried out. It is used to detect the electrical activity of the patient’s heart and enables the doctor to determine whether it is beating normally.
  • Echocardiogram (echo): This test uses ultrasound to display the activity of the patient’s heart. It may indicate problems with the heart muscle contractions and blood flow.

Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Medication

The following medication may be used to treat Afib:

  • Rhythm control medication: This helps the heartbeat in a normal sinus rhythm
  • Blood thinners (anticoagulant medications): Reduces the risk of blood clots and stroke
  • Rate control medication: These are used to prevent the ventricles from beating too fast.

Procedures and Surgeries

Cardiologists may recommend surgical and minimally invasive procedures to treat Afib if medication don’t seem to help. The procedures may include the following:

  • Permanent pacemaker: This is usually inserted if the patient has a slow heart rate and is normally used if the patient has another arrhythmia besides Afib.
  • Left atrial appendage closure: This procedure reduces one’s risk of blood clots and stroke.
  • The MAZE procedure: This is a procedure that creates scar tissue which helps the heart’s electrical impulses travel in the right direction.
  • Electrical cardioversion: The procedure uses low-energy shocks to electrically “reset” the heart rhythm. However, this may only be a temporary fix.
  • Pulmonary vein ablation: In this procedure, catheters are used to deliver energy outside and around the patient’s pulmonary veins.
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