Atrial fibrillation / Heart flutter

With a normal heart rhythm, the atria (upper chambers) and ventricles (lower chambers) work as a team, contracting and relaxing to move blood to the lungs and into the body.

Atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the electrical impulses of the heart lose their regular pattern. The heart rhythm (pattern of heart beat) becomes erratic, and often the heart beats too fast. This irregularity means that the heart does not pump a normal amount of blood out of the atrium, causing the blood that is left behind to pool and form clots. Untreated atrial fibrillation can lead to a heart failure and increases the risk of stroke.

So what is the good news? Atrial fibrillation can be controlled. With medical guidance, you can lead a normal, active life. Through new procedures, medications and technologies, atrial fibrillation is easier to manage than ever before.

Symptoms of atrial fibrillation

  • Racing, irregular heartbeat
  • Flopping sensation in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness, dizziness or fainting
  • Chest discomfort or pain, especially when the heart is beating fast.

Were you surprised you were diagnosed with atrial fibrillation? Some people never feel any symptoms. Even if you do not experience symptoms, it is important to understand your condition.

Goals for treating atrial fibrillation

  • Prevent blood clots to reduce stroke risk
  • Restore normal heart rhythm
  • Control heart rate-allow the heart to beat at a normal rate to prevent heart failure
  • Uncover underlying causes (thyroid disease, electrolyte imbalances or blocked heart arteries)
  • Treat adjustable risk factors-sleep apnea, hypertension, weight management, stimulant consumption (eliminate or limit caffeine and alcohol)

Treatment options

With the state-of-the-art equipment and technology at the Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center, you are in the best place to access the latest treatments for atrial fibrillation. What truly sets us apart is the way we care for you. Spectrum Health electrophysiologists not only work together to come up with the best care plans for our patients, but also to deliver the best patient experience possible.

For example, when we implant pacemakers, we safely and effectively let patients go home the same day, rather than spending a night in the hospital. The next day, the patient's device is checked remotely via the Internet. This keeps costs down, has proven to be just as safe, and it makes patients happier to be home in the comfort of their own beds. No other comparable electrophysiology program in the nation is able to do this like Spectrum Health.

Ablation procedures
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This procedure guides a wire into your heart to destroy small areas of heart tissue that may be causing your abnormal heartbeat. Heat (radiofrequency) or cold energy (cryoablation) are the two most common ways to destroy abnormal heart tissue. It's an alternative to long-term or lifelong medication therapy.

Cardiac rhythm monitoring
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With consistent check-ins and some assisted mechanical devices we can keep an eye on your heart rhythm, helping to understand and diagnose certain heart disease.

Catheter-based mapping
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This is a minimally invasive procedure that identifies the location of heart rhythm abnormalities in the heart so treatments like ablation can be more effective.

Convergent™️️ ablation procedure
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The Convergent™️️ procedure is a method developed to interrupt the more persistent disorganized electrical signals that lead to AF. The cardiothoracic surgery and electrophysiology teams come together to offer a more extensive ablation approach, known as the Convergent™️️ Procedure – a convergence of technique and technology.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
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This device combines the steady regulation of a pacemaker with the ability to shock the heart back into rhythm. It is used to treat congestive heart failure as well as arrhythmia, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Left atrial appendage occlusion
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This procedure attempts to reduce the risk of blood clots from entering the bloodstream, potentially preventing a stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.

Medication management
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Along with very important lifestyle changes, there are a variety of medicines used to help treat heart conditions. Medicines for heart disease are used to ease discomfort or lessen symptoms, but some can also be essential in preventing life-threatening episodes. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, and work with your doctor on both lifestyle and medicine changes.

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Your doctor may recommend a pacemaker to stimulate a faster heart rate when your heart beats too slow and the problem can't be fixed with other treatments.

Stereotaxis navigation
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A method of ablation that offers a more precise, and potentially more effective, delivery of the treatment.

Surgical MAZE
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Surgical intervention (performed by our cardiothoracic surgeons)-typically referred to as a MAZE procedure- a treatment for AFib that creates a “maze” of new electrical pathways to let electrical impulses travel easily through the heart. This is usually performed in combination with valve or open-heart surgery.

Get a Second Opinion

Contact our heart valve experts for more information or to schedule an appointment.