When you suffer from afib, the available treatment options can be confusing or, even, overwhelming. Fortunately, you can have confidence in top atrial fibrillation physicians like Houston’s top electrophysiologists, Dr, Shanti Bansal who will guide any treatment plan you may require. Nevertheless, knowing what treatments are available and what might be involved helps you work hand in hand with your doctor to achieve your best results.
Below are some of the most common treatments for afib. Having a general understanding of some of these treatments helps your communications with your doctor. The result can be your best possible medical outcome.
- Heart Rate Control
Normal heart rates are generally in the range of 60-100 beats per minute. On the other hand, afib patients can see heart rates in the range of 100 – 175 beats per minute. Medications such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers are usually prescribed to control this excessively rapid rate. Often these drugs are used in conjunction with other afib treatments, such as blood thinners.
- Antiarrhythmic Drugs
Heart rhythm with afib can be a separate problem. An irregular heart rhythm refers to an erratic heartbeat resulting in very poor blood circulation. This irregular or erratic heart rhythm, the sinus rhythm, is caused by sporadic electrical signals originating erroneously from various heart cells in the sinus region. These signals tell the heart’s ventricles (lower chambers of the heart) to pump with an erratic rhythm, causing reduced blood flow and other symptoms. Medications to control the heart’s sinus rhythm include sodium channel blockers and potassium channel blockers. These medications may lose their effectiveness over time.
- Electric Cardioversion
When medications are used to restore a regular heart rhythm, the approach is referred to as chemical cardioversion. A different method used to accomplish the same end result is electrical cardioversion. With this procedure an electric shock is sent to the heart, causing the heart to revert to a normal rhythm.
- Stroke Risk Reduction
In most cases of afib medication treatment, stroke risk reduction is included as a component of the afib management plan. Whether rate or rhythm control is the primary element in afib treatment, reduction of stroke risk is essential. Whether the afib is a result of rapid heart rates or irregular heart rhythm, the result is poor blood circulation. When blood circulation through the heart is weak, the blood can pool and may clot. Should this happen, a clot may break free resulting in a stroke. As a consequence, it is common for patients to be given blood thinners and other treatments to reduce the risk of stroke as part of an overall treatment plan.
- Catheter Ablation
If medications fail to restore sinus rhythm an alternative approach is a procedure called catheter ablation. With this procedure, a catheter with a special tip is inserted into the patient’s heart and is used to destroy the heart cells responsible for the erratic electrical signals. A unique, highly focused, radio frequency or cryogenic tip is used to kill the tissues causing the problem. Once these cells no longer send irregular signals, normal cells take over, and the sinus rhythm of the heart is restored.
- Lifestyle Changes
Modifying lifestyle is also an essential part of treating afib. Actions such as limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption and quitting smoking are necessary to reduce stimulants in the heart. For those patients that exercise, moderating work out routines may be required. It may not be necessary, however, to discontinue all training, so check with your physician to help develop an appropriate exercise plan.
If you or a member of your family has afib or if you suspect you may have afib call Atrial Fibrillation Centers of America for an appointment. Our friendly staff will gladly assist you with any questions and arrange a consultation with Dr. Shanti Bansal, Houston’s top electrophysiologist. Dr. Bansal will assess your condition and, if afib treatment is needed, will prescribe a medical management plan designed specifically for you. Our technical staff of highly experienced professionals is dedicated to helping you achieve your best possible health. Call today, 832-478-5067.