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Atrial Fibrillation

Read time: 5 mins
Last updated: 15th Jan 2021

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common type of arrhythmia, characterised by rapid and irregular beating of the atrial chambers of the heart. As a result, the heart can no long pump as much blood around the body, which leads to a wide range of symptoms, disease patterns and co-morbidities.

These symptoms can include heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke or haemodynamic collapse. Even when no symptoms arise, asymptomatic AF can cause irreversible remodelling. These structural or function changes can perpetuate the arrhythmia and make it progressively difficult to treat.

A further concern with AF is also the increased potential of developing blood clots in the upper chambers of the heart. These clots can circulate to other organs causing blocked blood flow and damage. This makes early detection and effective treatment essential.

Treatment primarily focuses on preventing circulatory instability, stroke and other ischemic events. Circulatory instability can be reduced by controlling heart rate or rhythm while stroke risk is reduced through anticoagulation therapy.

Abnormalities or damage to the heart are the most common causes of AF, these can include hypertension, coronary heart disease, heart failure or a heart valve problem as well as various types of medication and surgery.

To find out more about atrial fibrillation visit our dedicated Learning Zone, which has information on the pathophysiology, symptoms and diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation.