The overall objective of managing AFib is control of the heart’s rate and rhythm and prevention of blood coagulation in the system which could lead to stroke. In some cases, a conservative medical approach may be applied using medications. These fall into two categories; (1) Use of anti-arrhythmic drugs designed to promote a steady and regular heartbeat, and (2) Use of blood thinners to prevent blood from clotting, which could ultimately lead to a stroke.
Often, however, AFib must be treated surgically. Previous blogs covered some of the most common surgical techniques including catheter ablation and, in some cases, maze surgical ablation. With each of these approaches, there is a recovery time during which the heart must heal from the surgery and ‘learn’ to maintain a regular heart rate and rhythm. It is important to understand what to expect following catheter ablation to be able to partner with your doctor and achieve the best possible outcome.
Once catheter ablation surgery is completed, it is likely an overnight stay in the hospital may be required. Then, there will be several days to a week or so during which you will be limited to rest and recuperation. Your doctor may suggest you avoid baths and any strenuous lifting for a week or two. During this time your chest will be sore, and it is a time to allow your heart to adjust and begin to return to normal.
Following surgery, your heart will likely continue to fibrillate. This fibrillation or flutter is normal, and as the heart heals over the following three to six months, this fibrillation should decrease and finally end. During the recovery period, your doctor will likely prescribe blood thinners (such as Coumadin) to guard against clotting and reduce stroke risks. During the first three to six months following surgery, the heart will continue to fibrillate and flutter due to inflammation around the surgical sites. Nevertheless, as healing progresses, the flutter and fibrillation slowly subside until it gradually goes away.
Visits with your doctor following surgery will be needed to ensure the healing process is progressing satisfactorily. During these visits, the physicians will likely conduct tests to check how your heart is functioning. These tests may include:
- Holter Monitor Tests
- Transesophageal Echocardiogram
- CT Scan (Computed Tomography Scan)
- Physical Exams, Blood Work, and Other Lab Tests.
Monitoring your condition and progress following surgery is important to ensure your recovery is moving along an appropriate path and ends with a positive outcome.
Also, as part of a complete post-treatment management plan, your doctor will likely recommend a program for a healthy lifestyle. Once the patient has recovered from AFib treatment, your doctor will likely recommend practices such as:
- Eating Healthy – Meals should consist of lots of fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean protein. You should avoid foods high in saturated fats, trans-fats, and salt.
- Discontinuing Smoking – Smoking contributes to AFib and, if the patient smoked before treatment, a program to ‘beat’ the smoking habit should be started.
- Limiting Consumption of Alcohol and Caffeine – These are stimulants and, taken in excess, can contribute to AFib.
- Reducing Emotional Stress and Anger – These sentiments can increase blood pressures and serve to trigger an AFib episode.
Whether your treatment plan is limited to medications or includes surgical techniques, your doctor at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America will develop the best possible approach for your condition. Faithfully following the advice of your medical specialists will help ensure your treatment has the highest possible probability of success. If you believe you have AFib or fell symptoms such as tightness in your chest, a racing heartbeat, or a sense that your heart is ‘turning over,’ you should schedule a consultation with one of our medical specialists at Atrial Fibrillation Center Of America. Give our offices a call and set an appointment today, (832) 478-5067