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Atrial Fibrillation - Is Pacemaker An Effective Choice

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Atrial Fibrillation - Is Pacemaker An Effective Choice

Cardiology | by Dr. Rakesh Sarkar | Published on 09/12/2022


Overview:

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.

What is 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.

 

 

What are the types of atrial fibrillation?

Various types of atrial fibrillation are there such as: 

  • Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation
  • Persistent atrial fibrillation
  • Long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation
  • Permanent atrial fibrillation

 

What are the symptoms of atrial fibrillation?

Some people might not experience any symptoms of atrial fibrillation. It entirely depends on the speed of the ventricle's beat. If the beat is normal or slightly fast, then the person will not feel anything. However, if the beats are faster than normal, symptoms can be experienced. Here are the symptoms:

  • Excessive fatigue 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • An irregular heartbeat
  • Breath shortness 
  • Angina or chest pain 
  • Syncope or fainting 
  • Butterflies feeling in the stomach

How Does Atrial Fibrillation Occur?

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 -

  • Congenital heart diseases
  • Disorders related to coronary arteries
  • Heart Valve problems
  • Lung Diseases
  • Physical stress due to any previous surgery or existing illness
  • Problem with the heart’s natural pacemakers

How Is Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosed?

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.

What is the process for atrial fibrillation treatment?

It is recommended to undergo atrial fibrillation treatment if you or anyone near you are experiencing symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pounding, etc. There are various non-surgical options usually recommended for the treatment of mild to moderate symptoms. Surgery is usually recommended for long-term health benefits and leads to an improved quality of life. Here are other treatment options: 

  • Beta-blockers for reducing the heart rate 
  • Calcium channel blockers for arterial muscles relaxation and decreasing the heart rate completely 
  • Sodium or potassium channel blockers as it helps in controlling heart rhythm
  • Blood thinners to avert blood clotting from the formation 
  • Digitalis glycosides for heart contractions strengthening. 

Why pacemaker for atrial fibrillation?

The installation of a pacemaker is among the most effective treatment for atrial fibrillation. It is recommended and installed as it benefits in resetting the heart rhythm, controlling the heart rate, and averts blood clot formation. 

A pacemaker is the latest technological battery-powered device installed in the heart. It is slightly bigger than the small capsule size. It functions by sending electrical impulses to set the pace so that heat can beat at a normal rate. It has two types which are:

  • Single chamber pacemaker which involves stimulation of the heart’s one chamber
  • A dual-chamber pacemaker that can send electrical impulses to both the heart’s chambers 

The goal of pacemaker installation is the synchronization of the atria and ventricles rhythm in a pattern that almost resembles a normal heart rate. The doctor might recommend the installation of a pacemaker temporarily or regularly depending on the case severity. 

Conclusion

The evolution of medical science and technology has benefited our lives in countless ways. People who have atrial fibrillation lead a normal life and can carry out regular activities after the installation of a pacemaker. It can also help in averting the risk of a sudden heart attack that can be dangerous. Since most atrial fibrillation symptoms can be managed with pacemakers, there are some lifestyle changes that require prompt attention such as:

  • Take your medications on time
  • Stay physically active
  • Do not put pressure around the area where the pacemaker is installed

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

FAQs

What can trigger atrial fibrillation?

Several factors that can cause atrial fibrillation are - 

  • Coronary artery disease
  • History of heart surgery
  • Sick Sinus syndrome
  • Heart attack
  • congenital heart defect
  • Heart valve problems
  • Thyroid disease 
  • Viral infections
  • High blood pressure
  • Pulmonary disease

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.