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How Is AFib Treated? continued...


Another treatment option if medication isn't working is to have one of the following procedures:

  • Electrical cardioversion. This technique places adhesive pads on your chest and sends an electric current through them to reset your heart to its normal rhythm. It is performed while you are under general anesthesia.
  • Radiofrequency ablation. During this procedure, the doctor threads a thin tube up a blood vessel (usually in the leg or groin) to the heart. The tube delivers radiofrequency energy, which burns off the heart tissue that is causing the abnormal electrical signals. Essentially it cuts off the faulty "wiring" in the heart that is triggering the AFib.

If medication and nonsurgical procedures don't work, you could have a surgical procedure for your atrial fibrillation. This is not typically performed unless you are having open heart surgery for another reason (bypass surgery, valve replacement surgery, etc.). During a technique called the MAZE procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions on the surface of the heart, often using radiofrequency energy. As these incisions heal, they form scars, which block the abnormal electrical signals from moving through the heart and causing atrial fibrillation. Today, this surgery can also be done through minimally invasive endoscopic techniques.

If you are at risk for or have atrial fibrillation, you'll want to make a few changes in your lifestyle to protect your heart, including:

  • Eat a healthy diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine.
  • Be careful when you use products that contain stimulants, such as cold medications.
  • Adjust your activity level so that you are getting enough exercise to protect your heart without overburdening it.

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