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Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF or A-Fib) is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. It is a fast, complex, and chaotic rhythm of the upper chambers, or the atria. During AF, the typical rhythm is between 350 and 600 times per minute. At that rate, the upper chambers are not contracting normally. At first they quiver, but eventually there is mechanical standstill. The lower chamber, or the ventricles, also have an irregular and fast rhythm during AF. The AV node (aventricular node) acts as a filter, resulting in a ventricular rate between 100-200 beats per minute. 

Because the upper chambers are not contracting normally, the blood pools in these chambers and clots. The result of a dislodged clot is a stroke. The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that of the 700,000 strokes occurring each year in the U.S., 15 percent -- about 105,000 -- occur in people with atrial fibrillation. Apart from the major side effect, it can result in symptoms causing a fair amount of morbidity. 

AF has traditionally been treated with antiarrhythmic medications in conjunction with blood thinners. The most common blood thinner prescribed is coumadin or warfarin. Electrical cardioversion is another technique frequently used to temporarily correct this problem.

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment at McLaren Bay Region

Arrhythmia patients are treated in the electrophysiology laboratory by specially trained cardiologists called cardiac electrophysiologists. Electrophysiologists focus on the electrical or rhythm system of the heart. In the EP Lab, they treat various arrhythmias with cardiac catheter ablation. This is an outpatient procedure where electrical circuits in the heart are mapped, and then the abnormal circuits are permanently ablated. This exciting technique is now available to help patients with atrial fibrillation find relief from their arrhythmias.

McLaren Bay Region's EP lab has undergone recent expansion and renovation to accommodate the increasing numbers of patients requiring this sophisticated intervention.  Advanced imaging, mapping and ablation techniques are used in the EP lab.