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Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation - What it is

Atrial fibrillation is caused by abnormal electrical activity in the upper chambers which causes an irregular and rapid rhythm in the lower chambers.

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) characterised by rapid and irregular beating. This is caused by unusual electrical activity in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart which causes the lower chambers (ventricles) to beat quickly and irregularly. It is the most common heart rhythm problem and can occur in patients of any age though it is more commonly seen in older patients. AF is not immediately life-threatening but may result in heart failure in acute and chronic settings. AF also predisposes a patient to blood clot formation in the atria, particularly the left atrial appendage. In an event of clot embolisation from the heart to the brain, a stroke occurs.

Understanding Atrial Fibrillation


Types of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) can be classified into four categories based on severity.

1) Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation (occasional): The AF comes and goes spontaneously, and usually last for a few minutes to hours. Patients may feel intermittent palpitations with this. 
2) Persistent: The AF might last for more than seven days and require treatment with medication to restore a normal heart rhythm.
3) Long-standing persistent: The AF occurs often for a period of more than a year.
4) Permanent: AF is continuously occurring and the patient accepts that this will be long-term.

Possible complications of Atrial Fibrillation

If atrial fibrillation (AF) is left untreated, it can lead to life-threatening complications like strokes or heart failure. 

1) Stroke 

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke by five times. 

For patients with AF, the upper chambers of their heart are not pumping effectively. As such, blood flow is slow or stagnant which may cause blood clots to form. If these blood clots travel through the blood stream and block the arteries in the brain, a stroke can happen. 

AF can weaken the heart by making the heart work harder and reducing its ability to pump blood around the body efficiently. As the heart beats rapidly, it is unable to completely fill up with oxygen-rich blood to transport to the brain and other parts of the body, leading to fatigue, shortness of breath, and even causes fluid to build up in the lungs, legs, ankles and feet.

Atrial Fibrillation - Preparing for surgery

Atrial Fibrillation - Post-surgery care

The information provided is not intended as medical advice. Terms of use. Information provided by SingHealth

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