Atrial fibrillation (Afib) is not a single disease. It can have different causes, and that will affect which treatment(s) are used for each patient. Afib is associated with
congestive heart failure, structural heart disease, and heart valve problems. It can be caused by thyroid abnormalities. Some patients with atrial fibrillation do not have any other significant heart disease. In most patients, the desire is to restore and maintain regular rhythm. Treatment options for Atrial Fibrillation
Medication is often the first line of treatment for Afib. This includes a variety of medications including those that maintain normal rhythm (anti-arrhythmic drugs), medications that slow down rapid heart rates (Beta blockers and Calcium channel blockers) and anticoagulant medications to help prevent blood clots.
The goal of cardioversion is to disrupt the abnormal electrical circuit(s) in the heart and to restore a normal heartbeat. Occasionally, cardioversion is accomplished by using only medications such as anti-arrhythmic drugs to restore the heart's rhythm. During an outpatient cardioversion procedure, a synchronized electrical impulse causes all the heart cells to contract simultaneously, thereby interrupting and terminating the abnormal electrical rhythm without damaging the heart.
Learn more about cardioversion to treat Afib
Cardiac Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that uses radiofrequency energy (heat) or cryo energy (cold) to interrupt the path of abnormal electrical impulses within the heart. During ablation, a physician inserts a catheter (thin, flexible tube) into a blood vessel and guides it into place using imaging equipment. Most patients are able to go home either the same day of treatment or the following day.
Learn more about ablation to treat AFib Cryoablation
Cryoablation is an alternative to radiofrequency ablation, using cold energy instead of heat. Inova Heart & Vascular Institute is one of the highest volume cryoblation centers in the US – meaning our experience and proficiency supports better patient outcomes.
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WATCHMAN is a parachute-like device that is inserted at the opening of the left atrial appendage to prevent clots from leaving the appendage and causing a stroke. The device is inserted using a minimally invasive technique by a team of interventional cardiologists and cardiac electrophysiologists. Learn more about WATCHMAN
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Some patients with atrial fibrillation have heart rates that go too slow. A pacemaker is a small device that provides an electric stimulus to prevent the heart from beating too slowly.
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Alternative Strategies: Firm Ablation, Temporal Dispersion
For difficult cases of Atrial Fibrillation in which symptoms are not controlled through medication, cardioversion or pulmonary vein isolation, some may benefit from highly specialized forms of visualization and ablation.
IHVI offers ablation of Complex Fractionated Electrograms (CAFE potentials), as well as FIRM ablation and new mapping techniques, such as Temporal Dispersion, that help pinpoint sources of atrial fibrillation not visible during standard techniques.
This is particularly helpful for patients who may have had previous treatment that failed to resolve their symptoms.
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Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is among the highest volume centers for FIRM ablation on the East Coast. This technique may offer successful outcomes for patients, even those who may have failed previous ablations and are not responding to drug therapy.
FIRM is a special mapping technique which allows an electrophysiologist to look for areas to treat which are not visible using standard mapping procedures.
In some patients who may be undergoing heart surgery due to valvular heart disease or
Coronary Artery Disease, our surgical team offers intraoperative Maze procedure. The Maze procedure allows the surgeon to isolate under direct visualization those areas responsible for atrial fibrillation. In addition, it allows removal of the left atrial appendage, which is where blood clots can form, making patients with Afib susceptible to stroke. Need a doctor?
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