It's hard to say exactly what your treatment for atrial fibrillation will be, because it depends so much on your symptoms and your risk for other health problems.
Treatments are aimed at helping you feel better and preventing future problems, especially Reference stroke Opens New Window and Reference heart failure Opens New Window. There are three main types of treatment:
- Treatment to control your heart rate.
- Treatment to control your heart rhythm.
- Treatment to prevent stroke.
Treatment to control your heart rate
Rate-control medicines are used if your heart rate is too fast.
They usually do not return your heart to a normal rhythm—in other words, your heartbeat will still be irregular. But these medicines can keep your heart from beating at a dangerously fast rate.
Treatment to control your heart rhythm
Treatment to control your heart rhythm is done to try to stop atrial fibrillation and keep it from returning. It may also help your symptoms. Treatments include:
- Rhythm-control medicines, also called antiarrhythmics.
- Reference Electrical cardioversion. This procedure uses a low-voltage electrical shock to return the heart to a normal rhythm.
- Reference Catheter ablation. This might be done if your medicine hasn't brought back a normal heartbeat, or it's too hard to live with the side effects of medicine.
- Reference Maze procedure. This is usually done during open-heart surgery. It creates scar tissue that blocks excess electrical impulses from traveling through your heart.
Treatment to prevent stroke
Atrial fibrillation is dangerous because if the heartbeat isn't strong and steady, blood can collect, or pool, in the Reference atria Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window. And pooled blood is more likely to form clots. Clots can travel to the brain, block blood flow, and cause a stroke.
If you are at an average to high risk of having a stroke, your doctor may prescribe long-term use of an anticoagulant medicine, such as Reference warfarin, to lower this risk.
If you are at low risk of having a stroke or you cannot take an anticoagulant, you may choose to take daily aspirin.
For more information, see Reference Medications.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference May 9, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Reference John M. Miller, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology