Advances in Treating a Cardiac Arrhythmia
San Diego, CA - Most of us aren’t consciously aware of our heart beat until it speeds up due to physical exertion, fear, or excitement. However, for people with a condition known as cardiac arrhythmia, the heart may suddenly start to beat too quickly, too slowly or without a regular rhythm.
“Minor arrhythmias may not require treatment,” says Douglas Gibson, MD, an electrophysiologist at Scripps Clinic. “But the more serious types of arrhythmia may increase the risk of stroke and require medical care."
Atrial fibrillation (AF), the most common type of serious arrhythmia, occurs when the electrical impulses that control the heart become erratic. In a normally beating heart, the two upper chambers (the atria) contract, followed by the two lower chambers (the ventricles) in an organized rhythm.
When the electrical impulses become irregular, they interfere with the atria’s ability to effectively pump blood from the heart. The heartbeat may become very fast, sometimes exceeding 200 beats per minute. Some people experience symptoms, including shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness or chest discomfort.
Because the heart is not pumping blood effectively, blood can pool and form clots in the upper chambers of the heart. For people with AF, clots are most likely to occur in a part of the left atrium called the left atrial appendage. These blood clots may travel to the brain and cause a stroke. People with AF have a stroke risk that is about 6 times higher than people without atrial fibrillation. About 30 percent of all strokes in the United States are related to atrial fibrillation and they tend to be more disabling than other strokes. Continue>
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