Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
What is Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)
Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat in a rapid, uncoordinated and disorganized fashion, resulting in a very irregular and frequently fast heart rate. When the heart’s atria are in AFib, they quiver instead of beating effectively.
AFib currently affects more than 2.5 million Americans and costs our nation $6.5 billion in medical expenses. The number of patients with AFib is estimated to increase up to 16 million by the year 2050.
The AFib Clinic at the Prairie Heart Institute was created to address the urgency associated with AFib. Why the urgency? Here are a few key reasons?
Risk of Stroke: AFib is a major risk factor for stroke, making a person five times more likely to have a stroke. In fact, AFib accounts for up to 20% of all strokes. AFib increases stroke risk because it allows blood to pool in the upper chambers of the heart. When blood pools, it tends to form clots which can be carried to the brain, causing a stroke.
Worse health. With AFib comes not only an increased risk of stroke, but also a deterioration of other cardiovascular conditions. AFib can be a disease accelerator of other illnesses as well. Perhaps more distressing is that people with AFib are twice as likely to die from any cause as those without the disease.
Life on the sidelines. AFib compromises quality of life and functional capacity, keeping people from enjoying their families and social activities, and can even lead to forced retirement. In fact, one study shows that various measures of quality of life are lower in people with AFib than in those who have suffered a heart attack.
High costs. AFib can be costly, driving up health system expenses and increasing hospitalization and emergency care services. AFib is the most common cardiac arrhythmia seen in clinical practice and is responsible for the most hospital admissions related to cardiac arrhythmias. Today, because AFib increases healthcare utilization, medical costs for a person with AFib are as much as five times higher than those without the disease. We have to reverse this trend if there is any way we are going to manage the influx of people enrolling in the Medicare program.
Patients Most Appropriate For Consultation In Our AFib Clinic Include:
- Patients with newly diagnosed AFib or atrial flutter
- Patients with AFib (paroxysmal, recurrent persistent, or chronic) with unsatisfactory control of their symptoms
- Patients with AFib who need antiarrhythmic medication management or follow-up
- Patients with AFib who have concerns about potential risks related to drug therapy
- Patients with AFib or atrial flutter who are considering catheter ablation or pacemaker implantation
- Patients with AFib or atrial flutter who need help with treatment options for stroke prevention.
The Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) Clinic at the Prairie Heart Institute focuses on treating patients with AFib. We offer state of the art treatment options to control the symptoms of AFib, improve patients’ quality of life, limit the medical consequences associated with the disorder and educate the patient and his family about the disease. With the multitude of options for management of AFib, we strive to uniquely tailor specific treatments to each patient by giving consideration to each individual’s medical history, degree of symptoms, long-term risk for complications, as well as patient preference. The treatment services we provide include:
Drug therapy for AFib
Catheter ablation of AFib
Device-related treatment for AFib
Our physicians have been trained at the leading academic centers and are at the forefront in the treatment for AFib. We also are involved in multi-center clinical research in treatment aspects of AFib.
What increases your risk for stroke?
Atrial fibrillation with:
- Congestive heart failure
- High blood pressure
- History of prior stroke
- Age >65 years
- Female gender
- History of heart attack
- Peripheral arterial disease
How can you reduce your risk of stroke?
Depending on your risk factors, your doctor may recommend a blood thinner.
Anticoagulation (blood thinners)
Blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin) or the newer medications such as Apixaban (Eliquis), Dabigatran (Pradaxa) or Rivaroxaban (Xarelto) reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. However, some patients cannot take blood thinners due to prior bleeding difficulties or risk of future bleeding.
Left atrial appendage closure (LAAC)
The WATCHMAN device has been approved by the FDA as a non-drug alternative to reduce their risk of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation. Patients with an increased risk for stroke who are suitable for short-term blood thinning but are unable to take blood thinners long-term should be considered for this procedure.