PREVIOUS QUESTION:

 

NEXT QUESTION:

 

How is atrial fibrillation (AFib) treated when medications don't work?

ANSWER

When medications don't work, doctors can try electrical cardioversion to reset your heart's rhythm. This uses pads stuck on your chest to send an electric shock to your heart. You won't feel it because you'll be asleep under general anesthesia. Your doctor can also stop the short-circuiting in your heart by burning off the tissue on the surface of your heart that's causing the problem, or creating scar tissue that doesn't pass the offbeat signals. Usually, he'll get to your heart through a small tube placed in a blood vessel, and then use a laser, radio waves, or extreme cold. These procedures are called ablation.

If you're having open heart surgery for another reason, your doctor might do the maze procedure, which is similar to ablation.

A pacemakercan help keep your heart rate steady. People who take medicine to lower their heart rate may need one as a backup. You'll have minor surgery to put the small device under your skin. It runs on batteries and sends little electrical bursts to your heart when it beats too slowly.

SOURCES:

News release, FDA.

American Heart Association: "Atrial Fibrillation."

Cleveland Clinic: "What is Atrial Fibrillation?"

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Atrial Fibrillation."

The University of Chicago Medical Center: "Surgical Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation."

Shea, J. , May 20, 2008. Circulation

Ferri, F. , 1st ed., Mosby Elsevier, 2010. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011

Bonow, R. , 9th ed. Saunders Elsevier, 2011. Braunwald's Heart Disease - A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine

Task Force for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation. , October 2010. European Heart Journal

Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum on May 3, 2018

SOURCES:

News release, FDA.

American Heart Association: "Atrial Fibrillation."

Cleveland Clinic: "What is Atrial Fibrillation?"

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Atrial Fibrillation."

The University of Chicago Medical Center: "Surgical Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation."

Shea, J. , May 20, 2008. Circulation

Ferri, F. , 1st ed., Mosby Elsevier, 2010. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011

Bonow, R. , 9th ed. Saunders Elsevier, 2011. Braunwald's Heart Disease - A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine

Task Force for the Management of Atrial Fibrillation. , October 2010. European Heart Journal

Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum on May 3, 2018

NEXT QUESTION:

What can you do to prevent atrial fibrillation (AFib)?

WAS THIS ANSWER HELPFUL

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

    This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.