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Cardiology | by BMB
Have you experienced unexplained fatigue and chest pain after a brief walk? The feeling may have lasted for a few minutes to even hours. Well, if you have, then you may be suffering from atrial fibrillation. One of the early signs of heart disorders that can lead to serious health issues. Before we get into the technicality of what causes irregular heartbeat and how we can treat it, let us dive deep and understand the pathology of atrial fibrillation.
Atrial Fibrillation refers to the electric malfunction in the heart that causes irregular heartbeats (often rapid heart rhythm) and eventually increases the risk of blood clots. An individual with atrial fibrillation may also experience issues related to heart rhythm (atrial flutter). While it is a different medical disorder, the treatment is quite similar.
There are numerous causes which can lead to arrhythmic heart rate. Our heart has four chambers; two lower chambers (ventricles) and two upper chambers (atria). Our heart’s natural pacemaker, the sinus nodes, controls our heartbeat by producing electrical signals.
In the case of a healthy heart, the signals travel from the sinus nodes through the atria (upper chambers). These periodic movements of the signals cause the heart to contract and expand regularly and send the blood to the different parts of the body. A normal heart beats at a rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute.
In the case of an individual suffering from atrial fibrillation (A-fib), the heart rate increases from 100 to even 175 beats per minute. This can be primarily due to -
Most people are unaware of their deteriorating heart condition. There are numerous signs that can indicate improper functioning of the heart and the importance of a comprehensive diagnosis cannot be underplayed. Doctors diagnose atrial fibrillation using the latest technology and tests to know if there are other medical conditions contributing to your deteriorating health.
The doctor may recommend diagnostic tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG), blood tests, Holter monitor test, imaging tests (chest x-ray), stress test, echocardiogram, etc. for a quick and accurate diagnosis. However, these tests are usually conducted during regular healthcare checkups or when symptoms are moderate. In case of an emergency, the patient may have to undergo immediate surgery.
If you or any of your close ones are constantly complaining of pounding chest, breathing issues, and other heart-related symptoms, then it is imperative to undergo treatment. While there are several non-surgical options which can treat mild to moderate symptoms, surgery is often recommended for long-term health benefits and better quality of life.
One such effective treatment for atrial fibrillation involves the installation of a pacemaker. It resets the heart rhythm, controls the heart rate, and prevents blood clots from forming.
A pacemaker is a battery-powered device, which is slightly bigger than the size of a small capsule. A pacemaker sends electrical impulses to set the pace so that your heart beats at a regular rhythm. There are two types of pacemakers; Single-chamber pacemaker which stimulates one chamber of the heart (either atrium or ventricle) and Dual-chamber pacemaker which sends electrical impulses to both chambers of the heart.
The aim of installing a pacemaker is to synchronise the rhythm of the atria and ventricles in a pattern that closely resembles the natural heartbeat. Depending on the severity of the condition and how healthy the heart is, the doctor may suggest either a temporary or permanent pacemaker.
Temporary pacemakers are used for a short while after the surgery. They are attached to the heart by a wire. Subsequently, permanent pacemakers are implanted into the chest via surgery which takes around an hour. Permanent pacemakers are battery-operated which usually lasts for 5 to 15 years before they need to be replaced.
The evolution of medical science and technology has benefited our lives in countless ways. People with A-fib have been living a normal life and carrying out daily activities after their pacemaker surgery. Moreover, a pacemaker can also prevent the risk of a sudden heart attack which can be fatal. While most A-fib symptoms may be eased with pacemakers, there are certain lifestyle changes that require your attention.
With certain precautionary measures and dietary restrictions, patients with atrial fibrillation can have a normal life span similar to that of a healthy individual. A pacemaker substitutes for our heart’s natural pacemaker and eventually helps regulate our heartbeat. While the benefits of a pacemaker surgery may vary in individuals, the primary aim of increasing the lifespan of most individuals is significantly achieved through the treatment.
What can trigger atrial fibrillation?
Several factors that can cause atrial fibrillation are -
Does a pacemaker help atrial fibrillation?
Yes, a pacemaker sends electrical impulses that mix with the irregular heart rhythm to achieve a stable heart rate. Discuss your condition with the healthcare expert to undergo pacemaker installation surgery and avoid severe complications.
Is it safe to use electronic appliances after pacemaker surgery?
There is no problem with using common electrical household appliances like microwaves, electric blankets, cell phones, earphones, etc. However, be sure to not keep your cell phones or other portable electronics near the heart for long periods of time.