What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)?
Your heart has two atria (upper chambers) and two ventricles (lower chambers). In normal heart rhythm, both atria contract at the same time pushing blood into the ventricles. The ventricles beat, after a short pause, pushing blood out to the body. In atrial fibrillation, the atria beat in a chaotic way, reducing the blood flow to the ventricles and to the rest of the body.
What causes AFib?
- Heart or lung disease, including valve disorders
- High blood pressure
- Increased levels of thyroid hormone
- Cardiac surgery
- Congestive heart failure or enlarged heart
- Unknown factors
Symptoms and Complications
- Palpitations (a sense of pounding or fluttering in the chest)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness and
- fainting spells
- Some people with A-fib experience no symptoms.
- A complication of A-fib may be blood clots, which can lead to a stroke.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Diagnosis of AFib is done with an electrocardiogram (ECG). St. Luke's is the only hospital in Cedar Rapids' to treat AFib with the Watchman procedure - a left atrial appendage closure implant.
Additional treatment options include:
- A blood thinning medicine may reduce the likelihood of clot formation. Some examples of medicines are aspirin and warfarin.
- Rate-controlling medicines prevent the heart rate from becoming too fast. Some examples are Metoprolol, Carvedilol, Diltiazem, Verapamil, and Digoxin.
- Rhythm-controlling medicines are given to restore or maintain a normal rhythm and prevent atrial fibrillation from coming back. Some examples of these medications are Amiodarone, Dofetilide, Sotalol, Flecainide, and Propafenone.
- Cardioversion is used to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.
- Ablation is performed by using burning or freezing technology through a catheter to silence the heart cells that cause the abnormal rhythm.
- Once your heart returns to a normal rhythm, your health care provider may continue prescribing blood thinning or cardiac medicine.
One-time procedure that may reduce stroke risk for a lifetime in people with AFib
Watchman — Also known as the atrial appendage closure. This procedure is appropriate for patients at risk of developing clots in the left atrium and may reduce a patient’s risk of stroke and eliminate the need to take blood-thinning medication.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is a common heart rhythm irregularity that can cause blood clots, increasing your risk of stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. Blood-thinning medications like warfarin can help reduce the risk of stroke. But some patients cannot take warfarin because they are at high risk of bleeding.
The Watchman is a small device placed in the part of the heart where clots are most likely to form. The device acts as a barrier to keep clots from entering the bloodstream. Physicians implant the Watchman through a catheter inserted in the leg, similar to inserting a stent.
Mohit Chawla, MD, electrophysiologist with St. Luke’s Hospital – Cardiology has been implanting the Watchman device at St. Luke’s since 2016.