Your heart may seem to skip a beat, flutter, or feel like it’s racing. Or you may feel nothing out of the ordinary.
Symptoms or not, explained Dr. Thomas P. Carrigan, irregular heart rhythm is very common, but it does increase the risk of stroke. The heart muscle relies on a steady mechanical sequence to adequately move the blood where it needs to go and when. Irregular beats can mean inadequate amounts of blood are entering and leaving the chambers of the heart.
Afib, or atrial fibrillation, is the most common arrhythmia. “It is something that needs to be managed,” said Carrigan, an electrophysiologist and co-director of the Atrial Fibrillation Program at St. Elizabeth Heart & Vascular Institute.
The treatment has to be personalized, explained the doctor who is a specialist focused on the heart’s electrical system, which controls its rhythm and performance.
The first question?
“What is this patient’s stroke risk?” said Carrigan.
From there, the treatment strategy is straightforward:
- Reduce the risk of stroke
- Reduce or manage the symptoms using medications, ablation or a combination of ablation and pacemakers.
“Afib is not like a gallbladder. You can’t just go in there and take it out,” said Carrigan. “It is something that needs to be managed.” It is a progressive disorder that must be treated.
Patients can live normal, active lives. Treatment can control symptoms, restore heart rhythms, and prevent complications, according to the National Institutes of Health.
“The point is that A-Fib treatment needs to be personalized to the individual,” said Carrigan.