Effective Atrial Fibrillation Treatment in Melbourne
Atrial fibrillation is a cardiac arrhythmia, a condition characterised by irregular and often rapid heartbeats. With this heart condition, the heart’s upper chambers (the atria) quiver or fibrillate instead of contracting efficiently. This irregular rhythm disrupts the normal coordination between the atria and the lower chambers (the ventricles), leading to an erratic heartbeat.
It is a common heart condition that can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life and increase the risk of stroke and other cardiovascular complications. That is why it is important to seek diagnosis and treatment if you’re experiencing signs or are at risk.
How is this treated?
Atrial fibrillation can be treated through various approaches, depending on the severity of the condition and individual patient factors. Here are common methods for managing the condition:
Doctors often prescribe medications to control heart rate and rhythm. These can include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and anti-arrhythmic drugs. Additionally, anticoagulants (blood thinners) like warfarin or newer direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) are prescribed to reduce the risk of stroke by preventing blood clots.
In some cases, cardioversion is performed to restore a normal heart rhythm. This can be done through electrical cardioversion (using controlled electrical shocks) or chemical cardioversion (medications).
Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure where a thin tube (catheter) is guided to the heart to destroy or isolate the abnormal electrical pathways responsible for atrial fibrillation. This procedure is often considered when medications are ineffective or have significant side effects.
Lifestyle changes can play a significant role in managing this heart condition. These include reducing alcohol and caffeine intake, quitting smoking, managing stress, reducing abdominal and chest cavity fatty tissue and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise routine.
Risk Factor management
Treating underlying conditions like hypertension, diabetes, or sleep apnea is essential, as these conditions can contribute to atrial fibrillation.
Regular follow-up appointments and monitoring with a healthcare provider are crucial to adjust treatment as needed and to ensure the best management of atrial fibrillation.
Patients can be tested for atrial fibrillation through various diagnostic methods, depending on their symptoms and medical history. Here are common tests and monitoring techniques used to detect and diagnose atrial fibrillation:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
This is the most common and straightforward test for diagnosing atrial fibrillation. It records the electrical activity of the heart and can detect irregular rhythms, including atrial fibrillation. A standard ECG is a brief snapshot, while a Holter monitor or event recorder records the heart’s activity over a more extended period, making it more likely to capture intermittent episodes.
Ambulatory ECG monitoring
This includes devices like Holter monitors or event recorders, which patients wear for a specified time (typically 24-48 hours or longer) to record their heart’s electrical activity. These are particularly useful for detecting sporadic atrial fibrillation episodes.
This ultrasound imaging test provides detailed images of the heart’s structure and function. It can help identify structural issues or abnormalities that may contribute to atrial fibrillation, such as valve problems or heart muscle disorders.
In a stress test, the patient’s heart is monitored while they exercise or are given medication to simulate exercise. It can reveal atrial fibrillation episodes triggered by physical exertion.
Blood tests may be conducted to check for underlying causes of atrial fibrillation, such as thyroid disorders or markers of inflammation.
What are the potential complications?
Atrial fibrillation can lead to several potential complications, some of which can be serious or life-threatening. These complications include:
- One of the most significant risks associated with atrial fibrillation is stroke. The irregular heartbeat in atrial fibrillation can lead to the formation of blood clots in the atria. If a clot travels to the brain, it can block a blood vessel and cause a stroke, which can result in significant neurological damage or even death.
- Over time, persistent atrial fibrillation can weaken the heart’s pumping ability, potentially leading to heart failure. The heart may not effectively pump blood to meet the body’s needs, resulting in symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, and fluid retention.
- It can sometimes trigger other heart arrhythmias, further complicating the heart’s electrical rhythm and function.
- It has been associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline, including conditions like dementia. This may be due to reduced blood flow to the brain caused by irregular heartbeats and potential strokes.
- Apart from strokes, it can lead to other types of blood clots that may affect various organs or limbs, causing damage or requiring surgical intervention.
- This is associated with an increased risk of other cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, angina (chest pain), and peripheral artery disease.
Where can I go if I need atrial fibrillation treatment?
You can receive atrial fibrillation treatment at HeartWest, the largest cardiology group in the western and northwestern corridors of Melbourne, with 4 major locations and 3 satellite sites.
At HeartWest, our qualified experts will provide you with high quality cardiology care. You will experience nothing but professionalism, care and courtesy; from your first interaction with our staff, to going through tests, procedures and consultations.
Our cardiologists have expertise in all fields of adult cardiology, including;
- General cardiology
- Heart failure
- Cardiac imaging (including stress echocardiography)
- Interventional cardiology
- Electrophysiology & pacing
- Cardiothoracic surgery
Contact us for efficient and affordable specialist heart care services.