The Most Common and Effective Treatments for Afib
Afib and heart complications are a very common concern for both men and women, especially after the age of 50. There are a variety of afib treatment options, but the methods chosen depend on how severe the condition is, how long it has been present and the cause of an individual’s atrial fibrillation. Oftentimes, it is necessary to create specialized afib elderly treatments to reduce complication risk. The general objective of any treatment, however, is to regulate heart rate and prevent blood clots.
Heart Rate Reset and Control
The most common afib treatment is cardioversion, which is used to bring the heart rate back to its normal pace. A blood-thinning medication may be given to the patient for at least four weeks before the treatment in order to reduce the risk of stroke of blood clots as well as a transesophageal echocardiography thats tells if any blood clots are present in the heart. Cardioversion has two options of treatment:
Patches or paddles are placed on the chest to deliver an electric shock that momentarily stops the heart. Once the heart begins again, it should start at its regular pace.
Cardioversion with Medication
Anti-arrhythmics are used to restore the heart to its initial normal pace, and is used continually after to regulate the heart rate. Common side effects of anti-arrhythmias include fatigue, nausea and dizziness, and it can also cause a life-threatening condition called ventricular arrhythmias in rare cases.
Another treatment is to control the heart rate with medications such as digoxin and beta blockers. Digoxin controls the heart rate best during periods of inactivity, and beta blockers work better in active circumstances. Calcium channel blockers may also be used, but individuals with low blood pressure or heart failure should not use this medication.
If cardioversion or afib medications are not effective, further procedures such as catheter ablation, surgical maze procedure and atrioventricular node ablation may be used. These procedures remove the areas in the heart that disrupt electrical signals.
A doctor uses catheter ablation to treat triggers that discharge rapidly by inserting a thin tube into the groin to reach the heart. Electrodes on the tips of these tubes use heat, cold or radio frequency energy to scar the tissue, which normalizes the triggers.
The surgical maze procedure creates a scar tissue pattern to subdue wayward electrical impulses that causes atrial fibrillation. This afib surgery requires an open-heart surgery, and while it is effective, atrial fibrillation can return.
Atrioventricular node ablation is an option used if the side effects of other treatments are too adverse for an individual, or other procedures prove ineffective. This treatment sends electrical impulses to the heart ventricles before a pacemaker is implanted. Blood-thinning medications are also needed to prevent stroke.
Blood Clot Prevention
The prevention of blood clots is another step in atrial fibrillation treatment. Individuals with atrial fibrillation are at an especially high risk for stroke caused by blood clots. Medications such as warfarin, dabigatran, rivaroxaban and apixaban are blood-thinning medication used to prevent such complications. Side effects of these medications include internal bleeding and increased risk of heart attack and stroke with certain conditions, so careful monitoring is required while taking this medication.