Atrial Fibrillation

Imagine living with a heart that vibrates, quivers, and races rapidly and erratically instead of beating in a steady, comfortable, and predictable rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is the medical name for this condition, the most common arrhythmia of the heart. Every year, 2 million or so people are diagnosed with “atrial fib” or “a-fib,” as it is called for short. Although not by itself life threatening, it can lead to heart failure or stroke. For sure, it is scary. People frequently think they are having a heart attack.

In a normal heart rhythm, the upper chambers of the heart- -the arria-contract in unison in response to an electrical signal generated by pock-is of specialized cardiac cells called the sinus node. In patients with a-fib, however, the conduction becomes deranged and electrical signals scatter roughout the atria. Instead of contracting, the atria beat quickly and irregularly. This results in the loss of normal, synchronous pulsation and raises the risk of blood pooling and forming clots inside the chambers. Coumadin is usually prescribed to prevent clot formation.

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