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To Catch a Speeding Heart

If you’ve ever felt like your heart was “beating out of your chest,” you may have atrial fibrillation, or a-fib. Other symptoms include tiredness and chest pains, although some people with a-fib don’t experience any symptoms.

If you suspect you have a-fib, make an appointment with a cardiologist, who can offer you an easy, non-invasive test for the condition. Because a-fib is a major risk factor for stroke and heart failure, it needs a doctor’s attention. Treatment options include:

Lifestyle changes Limit or stop the use of tobacco products, caffeine, alcohol, and cough and cold remedies containing stimulants.

Electrical cardioversion While under a short-acting anesthesia, an electrical impulse is delivered to the chest wall, normalizing the rhythm.

Catheter ablation with pacemaker implantation High-frequency electrical energy is delivered through a catheter to the conduction system of the heart. This prevents the rapid heart rate caused by a-fib. A pacemaker is then implanted to control the heart rate.

Pulmonary vein isolation Using a catheter, bands of tissue inside the pulmonary vein (atop the heart) are rendered dysfunctional, blocking conduction of the abnormal rhythms.

Heart surgery The maze procedure uses a series of incisions in the right and left atria to confine the heart's impulses to defined pathways.

Non-invasive alternatives to the maze  Surgeons now use radiofrequency, microwave and cryothermic (cold temperature), devices to scar the tissue and block abnormal impulses.

Physicians at Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Atrial Fibrillation are among the most experienced in the nation. For an appointment, please call 800.890.2467.

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