Options for Treating Atrial Fibrillation Range from Medication to Surgery
Most Atrial Fibrillation (Afib) patients are prescribed medications to control their heart rhythm. Other drugs may be prescribed to prevent and treat blood clots, which can lead to stroke. The longer Afib is left untreated, the less likely it is that normal rhythm can be restored.
Medications include rhythm controllers, rate controllers and blood thinners.
Non-surgical treatments focus on interrupting the abnormal Afib impulses and restoring a normal rhythm. These procedures can include:
- Electrical cardioversion. This procedure uses an electrical shock on the outside of the chest with paddles or patches (while the patient is sedated) to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.
- Catheter ablation. Ablation is used when long-term medications or electrical cardioversion are either not effective or not an ideal choice for the patient. An electrical map of the heart is charted, which tells the physician which areas of the heart are causing electrical signals that interfere with the proper rhythm. During the ablation, a catheter is gently guided to the heart, and the physician carefully destroys the problem tissue using radiofrequency, laser or cryotherapy.
Afib Surgical Treatments
Left untreated, Afib can have serious health consequences. Seek treatment where cardiologists/electrophysiologists and cardiac surgeons discuss all treatment options with you and involve you in the decision-making process. If you have an open heart procedure planned, speak with your physician about surgical options to treat Afib.
- Maze IV Procedure is an open-heart procedure that uses ablations or energy sources to scar the tissue causing the heart’s rhythm to be disrupted. The Maze IV procedure is done by a cardiothoracic surgeon and is considered the gold standard for treating atrial fibrillation. This procedure is typically combined with other heart surgery.
If you suspect that you or a loved one have Afib, talk with your doctor to determine a diagnosis and what treatment is best for you.