If you have felt your heart galloping and found yourself dizzy quite often, you may have atrial fibrillation, which is a type of irregular heartbeat. In fact, it is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia. Catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation is a common form of treatment for this condition. However, there are other treatment options too, and it isn't until you have a proper diagnosis that you will know which treatment should be best for you.
A physician will take your medical history, conduct a physical, and order a number of tests. These include:
– Blood tests to check your electrolyte and thyroid hormone levels
– A chest x-ray to review the size of your heart.
– An echocardiogram to create a full picture of your heart. Possibly, a trans-esophageal echocardiogram will be ordered, whereby a probe is inserted into the esophagus to take a picture.
– An electrocardiogram (ECG), whereby electrodes are placed on the body to measure the rhythm and timing of your heartbeat.
– An event recorder, whereby you will wear a portable ECG machine for a specific period of time, so that your heart activity can be measured properly
– A Holter monitor, which is also a portable ECG machine that is worn for at least 24 hours
– The stress test, whereby you have to ride a stationary bicycle or run on a treadmill to see how your heart responds
Once you have been properly diagnosed, your physician will also be able to determine the best course of treatment. These include:
1. Cardioversion, whereby patches or paddles are used on the heart to shock it, thereby restoring its normal rhythm. This can also be achieved through medication.
2. Catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation, whereby radiofrequency is used. With a catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation, a thin tube (catheter) is inserted into a vein, after which heat is applied through radio frequency energy. This destroys the problematic heart tissue, thereby resolving the problem.
3. Atrioventricular node ablation, which also uses radiofrequency energy. However, this type destroys the AV node between the lower and upper heart chambers, which cause blockages to the heart's normal electrical impulses. After destruction of the AV node, you will need a pacemaker, however.
4. Medication, which helps to control the rhythm of the heart. This includes betablockers, although glycosides may also be prescribed.
5. A pacemaker, whereby your heartbeat will be regulated through an electronic device underneath the skin.
6. Surgery, which is generally only offered if other options do not work. Heart surgery is very complex and most physicians will try to avoid it. However, thanks to new advances in medical technology, these procedures are now generally completed laparoscopically, thus reducing the chances of complications.
Diagnosis helps to determine treatment, and treatment will make you well. However, you need to continue to see your physician, who will want to monitor your heart rate and heart rhythm to make sure you are as well and healthy as you feel. It is likely that you will also be encouraged to make lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy foods and exercising more.