Atrial Fibrillation

Most people with Afib can be successfully treated and lead active lives. Treatment can restore normal heart rhythm, control heart rate and prevent clots.
Most people with Afib can be successfully treated and lead active lives. Treatment can restore normal heart rhythm, control heart rate and prevent clots.
Most people with Afib can be successfully treated and lead active lives. Treatment can restore normal heart rhythm, control heart rate and prevent clots.

Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of arrhythmia, is a serious condition that causes an irregular, and often fast, heartbeat. This makes the heart pump blood less effectively, weakening the heart and potentially leading to blood clots, stroke or congestive heart failure.

Atrial fibrillation can be caused by a number of factors, including heart disease, high blood pressure and heart attack.

Rush offers an atrial fibrillation clinic where electrophysiologists focus exclusively on diagnosing and caring for this common heartbeat irregularity. As specialists, these doctors closely monitor you and help you reduce risk factors so your heart can maintain a healthy rhythm.

Types of Atrial Fibrillation

There are three types of atrial fibrillation:

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation: This type of atrial fibrillation comes and goes on its own and may occur for a few seconds or over a period of several days.
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation: Persistent atrial fibrillation continues until you receive medical treatment.
  • Chronic atrial fibrillation: Chronic atrial fibrillation is permanent and can't be helped by treatment.

If you have a chronic condition, such as sleep apnea, diabetes and asthma, you have a higher risk of developing atrial fibrillation than people who do not have these conditions.

Atrial Fibrillation Symptoms

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation may include the following:

  • Fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Palpitations
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Tiredness

Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation at Rush

Treatment for atrial fibrillation focuses on restoring normal heart rhythm, controlling your heart rate, and preventing blood clots and strokes. Specialists offer the full spectrum treatment options, including the following:

  • Lifestyle modifications, such as eating a healthy diet and quitting smoking, can improve your overall heart health.
  • Medications may be used to regulate your heartbeat. The most commonly used types of medications for the treatment of atrial fibrillation are anti-arrhythmic drugs, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and anticoagulants.
  • Watchman device is an alternative to blood thinner medications (e.g., warfarin) for people with non-valvular AFib (atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem). Watchman is a permanent heart implant that can lower your risk of stroke compared to lifelong use of warfarin.
  • A cardiac pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator, small devices placed inside the chest or abdomen, may be used to bring your heart back into normal rhythm. These devices allow you to lead an active life with the freedom of not being tied to a large machine. Data from these devices can now be transmitted wirelessly from patients' homes.
  • Cardiac ablation is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure. A physician uses a catheter through a vein or artery in your leg to reach the heart and correct the tissue in the area of your heart that is not performing properly.
  • Mini-Maze surgery is a minimally invasive procedure that can potentially cure your atrial fibrillation. Through tiny incisions, surgeons create scar tissue that allows your heart to resume beating normally.
  • VASCADE MVP is a vessel closure device that helps you get back on your feet in as little as two hours — rather than the typical recovery period of six to 10 hours — after cardiac ablation. The shorter recovery period with the VASCADE MVP device also typically means you'll require less pain medication after an ablation. Rush is the first hospital in Illinois to offer this innovative device.

Rush Excellence in Atrial Fibrillation

  • Expertise you can trust: Specialists at Rush are dedicated to diagnosing and treating atrial fibrillation. We offer complete team care, including participating in clinical trials for new therapies and procedures that are improving Afib treatment.
  • Advanced monitoring: Rush offers wireless monitoring of pacemakers and defibrillators. With wireless monitoring, your doctor will be alerted quickly if your heart rhythm changes and requires a medication adjustment.
  • State-of-the-art treatments: Our experts are dedicated to helping patients lead longer, healthier lives. That's why they are leading the way in bringing the latest treatment innovations for atrial fibrillation to patients — from leadless pacemakers and His bundle pacing, to VASCADE MVP, a vessel closure device that dramatically reduces the recovery period after cardiac electrophysiology procedures such as catheter ablation.
  • Pioneers in ablation innovation: Electrophysiologists at Rush were among the first in Illinois to perform ablation using the HeartLight Endoscopic Ablation System, which allows them to see inside a beating heart while delivering laser energy during ablation. This enhanced visualization means surgeons can more accurately pinpoint and apply laser heat to the precise area of your heart where the extra electrical signals are being produced. Ultimately this advantage may reduce the likelihood that you will need a repeat ablation procedure.
  • Among the best in the nation: U.S News & World Report ranked Rush University Medical Center among the best in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery care.