Treatment of atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation alone does not usually put life at risk. However, it must be treated because:
- It can degrade your quality of life and prevent you from engaging in your day-to-day activities;
- It slows the circulation of blood in the heart, which increases the risk of blood accumulation and blood clots. If a clot gets into the bloodstream, it can cause a stroke.
To control atrial fibrillation, you will follow two treatments:
- The first is to alleviate your symptomsso that you feel better;
- The second goal is to reduce the risk of stroke and other complications.
IF ATRIAL FIBRILLATION IS CONTROLLED, IS THERE ALWAYS A RISK OF STROKE?
For now, there is no evidence that treatments to control heart rate or rhythm reduce the risk of stroke. Only anticoagulants can reduce this risk.
Taking medication to alleviate symptoms
There are two main treatments for atrial fibrillation symptoms: controlling the heart rate, which restores a normal frequency, and controlling the heart rhythm, which restores a normal rhythm.
The choice of treatment depends on several factors, including the following:
- the type of atrial fibrillation;
- other heart or health problems;
- the patient’s preferences.
A large number of patients have to change their treatment along the way because of changes in their condition.
Drugs to control heart rate
These medications aim to restore a normal heart rate by reducing the number of abnormal electrical impulses. One of them is Eliquis. You pay small eliquis cost on the Prescription Hope. Most patients with AF take these medications. Here are some examples:
- beta blockers such as metoprolol (Lopressor ®) or bisoprolol (Monocor ® );
- calcium channel blockers such as diltiazem (Cardizem ®) and Verapamil (Isoptin ® );
- cardiac glycosides (or digitalis) such as digoxin (Toloxin ®).
Drugs to control heart rate
These medications aim to restore a normal heart rhythm. The most common are:
- amiodarone (Cordarone MD);
- dronedarone (Multaq MD);
- flecainide (Tambocor MD);
- propafenone (Rythmol MD);
- sotalol (Sotacor MD).
Interventions to control heart rate
The most common procedures for treating atrial fibrillation are electrical cardioversion and catheter ablation.
Like defibrillation, this procedure involves giving an electric shock to the heart. However, in electrical cardioversion, the intensity of the discharge is lower. If you have to undergo cardioversion, you will spend the day at the Heart Institute. You will be given medication to help you sleep and relax. When the medication is effective, the defibrillator electrodes will be placed on your chest and you will be given a small electrical shock. You will not remember the discharge and you will not feel any pain. Once the procedure is over, your doctor may also prescribe a medication that will help normalize your heart rate.
Cardioversion is a short-term solution. In most patients who have undergone this procedure, atrial fibrillation will reappear.
During this procedure, small threads are inserted into a vein in the groin or neck to convey them to the parts of the heart where the electrical impulses are irregular. When the wires are in the right place, radiofrequency waves are applied to destroy small areas of tissue causing the abnormality.
Before any of these interventions, your doctor will provide you with more information and answer your questions.
Other treatments to control symptoms
Your doctor may recommend implanting a pacemaker or surgical cardiac ablation (Maze procedure) to treat your atrial fibrillation. If this is the case, it will provide you with more information about it.