Atrial fibrillation is a form of altered heart beat (arrhythmia) that arises in the upper chambers of the heart called the atria. The normal regular beating of the atria is replaced by a chaotic fast and irregular rhythm. This causes the contraction of the atria to be ineffective and for blood to stagnate in the atria. This can lead to blood clots and eventually to complications such as stroke. This can lead to heart failure.
Symptoms may include heart palpitations, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, chest pain or weakness. Some patients do not have obvious symptoms and are unaware of their condition.
There are three major treatment goals for atrial fibrillation that include:
- Restoration of normal rhythm
- Controlling the heart rate
- Prevention of blood clots