Florida Institute for Atrial Fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is a relatively common heart defect that can lead to dire consequences if left untreated, including blood clots, stroke and heart failure. An estimated 15 – 20 percent of stroke victims suffer from atrial fibrillation. The Florida Institute for Atrial Fibrillation is a multidisciplinary center that brings together cardiac electrophysiologists, a cardiothoracic surgeon and an interventional cardiologist to provide seamless care to atrial fibrillation patients.
What is AFib?
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) caused by faulty firing of electrical impulses in the heart that stem from the development of abnormal tissue. These abnormal signals cause the upper chambers of the heart, or atria, to quiver instead of contracting and relaxing in a regular rhythm. This irregularity in the atria causes them to pump blood inefficiently into the ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart. Because this inefficient pumping can slow down the blood flow, it can increase the risk of blood clot formation, which in turn increases the risk of stroke.
AFib is typically classified into three categories:
- Paroxysmal: Paroxysmal AFib symptoms and irregular electrical signals start and stop on their own, often within 24 hours but usually within a week.
- Persistent: AFib is considered persistent when the rhythm abnormalities last longer than a week, and require treatment to return to normal rhythm.
- Permanent/Long-Standing: AFib is considered permanent when treatment fails to restore a normal heart rhythm. Permanent AFib can result from either frequent paroxysmal or persistent AFib.
Symptoms of AFib
The most commonly recognized symptom of AFib is a “fluttering” heartbeat, or a heartbeat that is rapid and irregular. Other symptoms include:
- Quivering or thumping in the chest
- Dizziness or faintness
- Shortness of breath
- Exercise fatigue
- Chest pain or pressure
Treatment for AFib can range from medication to surgery depending on the severity of the irregularities, the duration of the atrial fibrillation state and other medical issues happening concurrently.
Medications prescribed for AFib often prevent or treat blood clots, in order to reduce the risk of stroke. Other medications may be used to correct the abnormal heart rhythm itself.
The two most common nonsurgical procedures to treat AFib are electrical cardioversion and catheter ablation. Electrical cardioversion is the application of an electrical shock to the chest in an attempt to reset the heart’s rhythm. Catheter ablation involves the use of a thin, flexible tube (the catheter) to reach the heart by way of the blood vessels. A cardiac electrophysiologist, a physician specializing in heart rhythms, uses the catheter to pinpoint and eliminate the abnormal tissue causing the arrhythmia.
WATCHMAN Procedure and AtriClip
When a blood clot develops in the heart of a patient with Atrial Fibrillation, it is most often found within the left atrial appendage. This is a small pouch that empties blood into the left atrium, one of the upper chambers of the heart. In patients with AFib this pouch does not empty normally and the blood can form clots which may be pumped out and can travel to the brain causing a stroke. Treatment can involve the exclusion of the left atrial appendage from the circulation through minimally invasive surgery by applying a special clip (AtriClip) to its base or by use of the WATCHMAN device. Both methods act as a barrier to prevent blood clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. AFib patients have a five time greater risk of stroke and typically have to take a long-term blood thinning drug with potentially serious side effects. After a successful procedure, patients can potentially stop taking blood thinning drugs such as warfarin.
Hybrid Convergent Procedure
For persistent AFib, your physician may recommend the hybrid convergent procedure – a multidisciplinary approach that combines the efforts of both the cardiothoracic surgeon and the cardiac electrophysiologist. The cardiothoracic surgeon accesses the outside of the heart and uses radiofrequency energy to create interruptions in the abnormal tissue, thereby preventing irregular electrical impulses from forming. Then, the cardiac electrophysiologist uses a catheter to reach the inside of the heart and close any gaps inaccessible from the outside of the heart that could otherwise allow the conduction of irregular electrical impulses.
The Florida Institute for Atrial Fibrillation has multiple locations in Palm Beach County:
1411 N. Flagler Drive, Suite 4900 West Palm Beach, FL 33401
Conveniently located on the campus of Good Samaritan Medical Center
3375 Burns Road, Suite 101 Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410
Conveniently located near the campus of Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center
5352 Linton Blvd., Suite 100, Delray Beach, FL 33484
Conveniently located near the campus of Delray Medical Center
3001 NW 49th Ave., Suite 104, Lauderdale Lakes, FL 33313
Conveniently located near the campus of Florida Medical Center, a campus of North Shore
For more information or a referral to the Florida Institute for Atrial Fibrillation, please call 1-866-654-2362