What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation (also known as AF or AFib) is a type of cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). With atrial fibrillation, the electrical signals in the atria (the two small chambers of the heart) are fired in a very fast and uncontrolled manner. The atria quiver instead of contract. The electrical signals then arrive in the ventricles in an irregular fashion.

When atria do not contract effectively, the blood may pool and/or clot. If a blood clot becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke (brain attack) may occur. About 15 percent of strokes occur in persons with atrial fibrillation.

How Is Atrial Fibrillation Treated?

Aspirin, warfarin and other anti-clotting heart medications may be used to treat atrial fibrillation. Other treatments for patients who cannot take anti-clotting medications include pacemaker placement, radiofrequency ablation and a new, minimally invasive procedure known as the LARIAT procedure.