What is “Atrial Fibrillation” ?
“Atrial fibrillation” (also known as “AF”) is a heart disorder where the two smaller chambers of the heart (known as the right and left atrial chambers) do not beat in a regular, coordinated way with the rest of the heart and instead quiver very rapidly and irregularly (known as “fibrillation”).
Atrial fibrillation occurs with increasing frequency as people become older and it is estimated that approximately 1 in 20-30 people over the age of 70 have AF. It may also occur with other conditions such as coronary artery disease, heart valve disease (especially mitral valve disease), high blood pressure as well as some congenital heart diseases (heart conditions present at birth).
What is important about “Atrial Fibrillation”?
Individuals with atrial fibrillation often experience palpitations (feeling the heart racing), breathlessness, tiredness or feeling faint due to the inability of the heart to provide a regular, steady blood flow as well as a consequence of this rapid, uncoordinated heart rhythm.
As the blood does not flow smoothly through the heart and instead pools within the atria (especially in the left atrial chamber), it can clot and pieces of the clot may break off and lodge in vital organs such as the brain to cause stroke : it is estimated that 15 – 20% of strokes occur in individuals with AF.
The drug Warfarin is often used in individuals with AF to “thin” the blood in order to reduce the risk of clots forming in the heart. This often means regular blood tests and close monitoring by your doctor to ensure that the right dose of drug is maintained at all times and that the risks of complications from Warfarin use is minimised.
Can “Atrial Fibrillation” be treated ?
There are a number of options for treating atrial fibrillation with the aim being to have the rapid, irregular atrial fibrillation rhythm reverted back to it’s own normal, regular rhythm (known as “sinus rhythm”) and to avoid the long-term use of Warfarin that can be associated with complications, especially in the older ages:
- Drugs to convert the rapid, irregular AF rhythm to the normal regular, coordinated rhythm such as Sotalol and Amiodarone or drugs to slow the irregular rhythm such as Digoxin, Metoprolol.
- Electrical “cardioversion” where a shock is delivered to the heart during a short period of anaesthesia to convert the AF rhythm to a normal rhythm or a chemical “ cardioversion” with a drug called Adenosine delivered intravenously. These methods are generally used when standard drug treatment is not successful.
- Catheter-based radiofrequency ablation is performed during a procedure similar to an angiogram where fine, flexible wires are introduced through a groin blood vessel and radiofrequency energy is delivered to the heart muscle to block (or “ablate”) abnormal pathways in the heart responsible for the AF.
- Surgery (such as the Star procedure – which was pioneered in Australia) can be performed by a heart surgeon where the surgeon applies radiofrequency energy directly to the heart muscle of the atrial chambers during procedures such as coronary artery bypass grafting, mitral valve repair or replacement, aortic valve replacement or any other kind of heart operation.
How can Avisis Health help individuals with atrial fibrillation?
Avisis Health is an Australian premium healthcare delivery organization that can assist individuals around the world with atrial fibrillation to access Australia’s best medical and surgical personnel and facilities. This enables Avisis Health to be able to offer cutting edge technology and world class medical expertise in the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of individuals with this condition.
For more information or to contact Avisis Health please click here.