What is Afib (Atrial Fibrillation)?

Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia (heart rhythm problem) that affects millions of Americans. This irregular heart rhythm can lead to congestive heart failure and stroke. Symptoms include irregular pulse, palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Inova offers leading expertise in all aspects of atrial fibrillation management.



VIDEO: Inova Health Talk - What is Afib, How to Know if You Have It, and Treatment Options – Stephen Gaeta, MD, PhD

Ever have that feeling when your heart flutters or skips a beat? Left untreated, Afib can lead to blood clots, stroke or heart failure. Clinical cardiac electrophysiologist Stephen Gaeta, MD, PhD discussed the causes and treatment of Afib with Charles Murphy, MD.

VIDEO: Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment – Marc Wish, MD

Do you have an irregular or racing heartbeat? Experience fatigue easily? Feel a sensation of flip-flopping in your chest? Dr. Marc Wish explains these symptoms as well as risk factors and treatment options for Afib.

What causes Afib?

Atrial fibrillation is not a single disease. It can have different causes. The cause will affect which treatments are used. Afib is associated with congestive heart failure, structural heart disease, and heart valve problems. 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.

In normal rhythm, the heart beat starts in the atrium (the top part of the heart). The atrium beats, the signal goes to the ventricle (bottom part of the heart), and the ventricle beats. The heart then beats top-bottom, top-bottom.

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers go into a sustained chaotic rhythm. As a result, three things happen:

  1. First, the pulse becomes irregular. Irregularity is the hallmark of atrial fibrillation. In some people, the pulse may be too fast, and we may need to use medications to slow it down. In other people, the heart rate may be too slow, and a pacemaker may be needed to speed it up.
  2. The second problem is heart function. The contraction of the atrium serves a purpose – it helps the ventricles, the main pumping chambers, to work more efficiently and effectively. In Atrial Fibrillation, the heart function becomes less efficient.
  3. The third problem is blood clots. When blood isn't getting pushed along briskly, it clots. If a clot forms and ends up going to the brain, that can cause a stroke. The risk of stroke can be estimated using certain criteria for each individual factors.

What are the treatment options for Afib?

Advances in ablative techniques have revolutionized care for patients who live with Atrial Fibrillation. Inova Heart and Vascular Institute offers a wide spectrum of options including the newest treatment options for Afib to meet a wide range of patient needs. Read about AFib treatment options arrows

VIDEO: Living with Afib – Haroon Rashid, MD

Living with atrial fibrillation can be a challenge, but it doesn’t have to disrupt your life. Dr. Rashid discusses ways to manage your Afib symptoms and improve your prognosis.

The doctors at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute know that each patient, and each case, is unique. When you are diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, your Inova physician is committed to finding the best treatment for you based on your particular symptoms and medical history.

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