What is atrial fibrillation?

Heart-shaped stethoscope related to heart health

Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as a-fib, is the nation’s leading heart rhythm condition for folks over the age of 65. It is characterized by an irregular heartbeat that can jump from one extreme speed to another. It affects 2.5 million Americans with incidences only increasing with age.

According to the American Heart Association, the condition can quadruple stroke risk and double the chances of dying from a heart-related illness.

Treating atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm condition for older adults. Those affected are often prescribed antiarrhythmic medications to restore a regular heartbeat, but these drugs have been linked to adverse side effects. Additionally, not all cases of a-fib respond to these medications.

A procedure called catheter ablation is a popular treatment option for a-fib. This is when doctors insert a wire into a blood vessel on the upper thigh that snakes its way up to the heart. Once there, an electrode delivers heat that kills the defective tissue that’s causing the rhythm abnormalities. Catheter ablation can be an effective treatment option for a-fib. However, some patients require multiple ablations.

A newer, more novel a-fib treatment approach is called cryoablation. This procedure is very much like catheter ablation, only instead of burning the damaged heart tissue, it uses extreme cold to freeze it.

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