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Atrial fibrillation or flutter


Alternative Names:

Auricular fibrillation; A-fib

Symptoms:

You may not be aware that your heart is not beating in a normal pattern.

Symptoms may start or stop suddenly. This is because atrial fibrillation may stop or start on its own.

Symptoms may include:

Exams and Tests:

The health care provider may hear a fast heartbeat while listening to your heart with a stethoscope. Your pulse may feel fast, uneven, or both.

The normal heart rate is 60 - 100. In atrial fibrillation/flutter the heart rate may be 100 - 175. Blood pressure may be normal or low.

An ECG (a test that records the electrical activity of the heart) may show atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter.

If your abnormal heart rhythm comes and goes, you may need to wear a special monitor to diagnose the problem. The monitor records the heart's rhythms over a period of time.

  • Event monitor
  • Holter monitor (24-hour test)
  • Implanted loop recorder
  • Extended monitoring

Tests to find heart disease may include:

Outlook (Prognosis):

Treatment can often control this disorder. Many people with atrial fibrillation do very well.

Atrial fibrillation tends to return and get worse. It may come back even with treatment.

Clots that break off and travel to the brain can cause a stroke.

When to Contact a Medical Professional:

Call your health care provider if you have symptoms of atrial fibrillation or flutter.

Prevention:

Talk to your health care provider about steps to treat conditions that cause atrial fibrillation/flutter. Avoid binge drinking.

References:

January CT, Wann LS, Alpert JS, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. Circulation. 2014;129.

Dobrev D, Nattel S. New antiarrhythmic drugs for treatment of atrial fibrillation. Lancet. 2010;375:1212-1223.

Morady F, Zipes DP. Atrial fibrillation: clinical features, mechanisms, and management. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 40.

Olgin J, Zipes DP. Specific arrhythmias: diagnosis and treatment. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 39.

Zimetbaum P. Cardiac arrhythmia with supraventricular origin. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 64.


Review Date: 5/13/2014
Reviewed By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. Copyright 2002 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

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