What Is Atrial Fibrillation and Can It Be Prevented? | MedStar Health

What Is Atrial Fibrillation and Can It Be Prevented?

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By: Sung W. Lee, MD, Department of Cardiology

Atrial Fibrillation is the technical term for irregular heartbeat caused by malfunctioning electrical impulses in the heart. It is the most common heart rhythm problem, affecting more than three million Americans, and is on the rise in the United States and in this area.

Controlling high blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight and treating sleep apnea are all ways to help prevent Atrial Fibrillation. If a patient does develop this chronic condition, Dr. Lee identifies the following three treatment pillars for Atrial Fibrillation:

Stroke Prevention

Using anticoagulants, or blood-thinning drugs, can prevent strokes. In more serious cases, implanting a device called a Watchman Closure prevents blood clots from entering the bloodstream and causing a stroke.

Heart Rate Control

Medications and/or implanted pacemakers can regulate heartbeats and keep hearts functioning effectively. Many pacemaker implantations occur here at MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center, as a part of the MedStar system and the MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute’s shared commitment to bring top-of-the-line care to the residents of southern Maryland.

Rhythm Control

Medications and/or minimally-invasive catheter ablations, which are procedures to burn or freeze the tissue that causes Atrial Fibrillation, have good success rates with a low occurrence of complications. MedStar Heart & Vascular Institute is one of the highest volume arrhythmia treatment centers in the country, offering the most sophisticated diagnostic tools and advanced treatment options. Our experts include board-certified, nationally recognized arrhythmia specialists who offer a team-based approach, collaborating with over 140 other cardiac specialists throughout our system to ensure that we provide a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan that’s right for you.