Atrial fibrillation (AF) is characterized by an irregular and rapid beating of the heart's atrial chambers and results when the normal electrical conduction system of the atria is not functioning properly. In AF, there is a storm of electrical activity across both atria causing them to fibrillate (quiver) 300-600 times per minute.
Only a small number of these impulses are picked up by the ventricles, but the ventricular rate can approach 180 or higher. Whether at high or low heart rates, the irregular rhythm renders the ventricle unable to pump efficiently. This leads to pooling of the blood within the heart and insufficient amounts of blood being supplied to the body. This can result in a variety of symptoms and problems.
AF affects approximately 2 million people, with 160,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. It is estimated that AF is responsible for over 70,000 strokes each year in the United States. The prevalence of AF increases with age.
Treatment of atrial fibrillation requires medication, and often one of a variety of surgical procedures. Cardioversion refers to the restoration of the heart's normal rhythm and is commonly the first step in treating AF. Cardioversion can be accomplished in two ways: electrically (direct-current cardioversion) or pharmacologically.
The Medifocus Guide on Atrial Fibrillation provides answers to the following important questions and medical issues:
What are the most common symptoms of atrial fibrillation?
Are there any recognized risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation?
What kinds of medical tests are used to establish the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation?
What is the current standard of care for the treatment of atrial fibrillation?
What treatment options are available for the management of atrial fibrillation?
Are there any promising new developments or potential breakthroughs in treatment?
Who are the most notable medical authorities who specialize in atrial fibrillation?
Where are the leading hospitals and centers of research for atrial fibrillation?
What are the most important questions to ask my doctor about atrial fibrillation?
What Your Doctor Reads:
This MediFocus Guide contains an extensive listing of citations and abstracts of recent journal articles that have been published about this condition in trustworthy medical journals. This is the same type of information that is available to physicians and other health care professionals. A partial selection of journal articles that are abstracted in this MediFocus Guide includes:
Atrial fibrillation: epidemiology, mechanisms, and management. Current Problems in Cardiology. 2000
Quality of life in patients with atrial fibrillation. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2000
Atrial fibrillation in dialysis patients. Nephrology, Dialysis, Transplantation. 2000
Atrial fibrillation: nonpharmacologic approaches. American Journal of Cardiology. 2000
Management and prevention of atrial fibrillation after cardiovascular surgery. American Journal of Cardiology. 2000
Management of atrial fibrillation: therapeutic options and clinical decisions. American Journal of Cardiology. 2000
Atrial fibrillation: part II. Harvard Heart Letter. 2000
Appropriate outcome measures in trials evaluating treatment of atrial fibrillation. American Heart Journal. 2000
Atrial fibrillation: part I. Harvard Heart Letter. 2000
Nonpharmacological treatment of atrial fibrillation: a heretic's appraisal. Pacing & Clinical Electrophysiology. 2000
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