Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Options

Dr. Paul Dorian, MD, CM, MSc., Cardiologist, discusses atrial fibrillation treatment options.

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Dr. Paul Dorian, MD, CM, MSc., Cardiologist, discusses atrial fibrillation treatment options.
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Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Paul Dorian, MD, CM, MSc., Cardiologist

Duration: 2 minutes, 41 seconds

The usual treatment for atrial fibrillation – that is, for the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, is designed to make the patient feel better. And this treatment usually revolves around one of two kinds of treatments.

One is treatment to slow down the heartbeat, in other words to make it less rapid and less irregular. That makes most patients feel better. That strategy of slowing down the heartbeat is called rate control. That strategy does not necessarily require the heart rhythm to be restored to normal.

There’s a second strategy called rhythm control, and this strategy involves treatments to get the heartbeat back to beating normally. It may sound sensible to always want to get the heart beating regularly again, but that is not always easily achieved.

The initial treatment in most cases, when the heart is beating fast and irregularly, is to slow it down with medications that are relatively easy to take, and really quite safe. That is the rate control strategy. The rhythm control strategy involves getting the heartbeat regular and back to normal.

That may require medications, so-called antiarrhythmic drugs, whose purpose it is to either restore the heartbeat back to normal or to prevent the irregular heartbeats from coming back if the heartbeat is back to normal again.

Another type of treatment is called cardioversion, and these are small, very safe, electrical shocks to the heart, delivered to a patient who’s briefly put to sleep. The cardioversion restores a normal rapid heartbeat.

The third type of treatment, which many patients have heard about nowadays, is called ablation, and this is a way of putting wires inside the heart and making small burns inside the heart to get rid of the electrical short circuits that cause atrial fibrillation, in an attempt to prevent the problem from recurring. Ablation can be very effective, but it isn’t effective in all patients.

If you have atrial fibrillation and you don’t feel well, or you need more information, or you’re not completely satisfied with your treatment, speak to your family doctor. If needed, ask to be sent to a cardiologist who has expertise in atrial fibrillation and get yourself as well informed as possible about this condition so that you understand your own body, and you can deal with the symptoms more effectively.

Presenter: Dr. Paul Dorian, Cardiologist, Toronto, ON

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.