Getting Your Regular Heart Beat Back

The specifics of atrial fibrillation can differ from person to person, but many develop heart palpitations – like pounding in your chest or when your heart races.

Other symptoms include lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and chest pain. A type of arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation is a condition in which the upper chambers of the heart beat rapidly and irregularly, increasing the risk of stroke due to poor blood flow.

If your arrhythmia has not responded to medication, you may be a candidate for atrial fibrillation ablation, a procedure that can often eliminate your symptoms entirely.

“One of the things that I think is unique about Jefferson’s approach to atrial fibrillation ablation is that we offer comprehensive care to patients besides having a team approach to the assessment and management of a patient’s atrial fibrillation,” says Daniel Frisch, MD, a cardiologist specializing in electrophysiology. “We look for other causes or factors that might contribute to their symptoms.”

The ablation procedure is performed by experienced physicians in Jefferson’s Electrophysiology Laboratory using small catheters inserted in the heart to apply a radiofrequency current to target the areas that may trigger or sustain the arrhythmia.

The catheter tip actually delivers high-energy waves that selectively destroy certain areas to isolate the electrical activity from sites that often initiate or trigger atrial fibrillation.

The procedure takes approximately 4 to 6 hours and usually requires an overnight hospital stay. Successful ablations often result in greatly reduced or completely suppressed symptoms. About three out of four of our patients remain in normal rhythm a year after undergoing the ablation procedure.

People of all ages from their 20s to their 80s and 90s can develop atrial fibrillation, but the condition is most common for those aged 65 and older.

“The patients we consider for the ablation procedure tend to be on the younger side, usually less than 75,” Dr. Frisch says. “They also tend to be symptomatic from the atrial fibrillation. They experience a fluttering sensation in their chest palpitations, some of them experience chest pain and shortness of breath.”

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