Atrial fibrillation is an irregular, and often rapid, heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body.
During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two upper chambers (the atria) quiver — instead of beating effectively — out of coordination with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart.
Atrial fibrillation affects more than 2.2 million Americans. It’s the most frequently diagnosed form of cardiac arrhythmia.
Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn't life-threatening, it can lead to complications.
Atrial fibrillation causes blood to be pumped improperly, resulting in pooling or clotting.
If a blood clot moves to an artery in the brain, it can lead to stroke. In fact, about 15 percent of all strokes occur in people who have atrial fibrillation.
Untreated atrial fibrillation can also lead to other serious, potentially life-threatening conditions, including:
Atrial fibrillation is very common, particularly among people over 60.
At any age, your risk for atrial fibrillation is more likely if you:
The Center for Atrial Fibrillation is a UPMC Center of Excellence, and the first in western Pennsylvania established to further the study of atrial fibrillation and educate patients and families about the condition.
Our multidisciplinary group provides the latest treatment options and education for people with atrial fibrillation.
The UPMC Cardiac Electrophysiology Program is the largest in western Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the United States.
We treat cardiac arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation, and other heart disorders associated with a high risk of sudden death.
Changes in your heart, as a result of heart disease or high blood pressure, can often cause atrial fibrillation.
Episodes of atrial fibrillation can be chronic or can come and go.
People with atrial fibrillation often have a fast heart beat, sometimes reaching as high as 170 beats per minute.
Other symptoms of atrial fibrillation may include:
Although feeling your pulse may be enough for your doctor to suspect atrial fibrillation, you’ll still need to undergo a thorough physical exam and evaluation.
Following your exam, your doctor may order additional tests and procedures to help confirm a diagnosis of atrial fibrillation, such as:
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.
The UPMC Center for Atrial Fibrillation offers a full range of treatments for the most therapy-resistant cases of atrial fibrillation.
Treatments options include:
The goals of atrial fibrillation treatment are to:
Your doctor may prescribe medicine and order certain procedures to meet these treatment goals.
Get more details about treatment options at UPMC's Center for Atrial Fibrillation.
Our doctors also are internationally recognized for their research into the underlying causes of arrhythmia and in using their discoveries to develop improved methods for diagnosing and treating atrial fibrillation and other arrhythmias.
Learn more about heart and vascular treatments at UPMC.
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