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Atrial Fibrillation (AFib)

Question:

What types of procedures (for example cardioversion) have you undergone for AFib? Submit Your Comment

Comment from: snowy, 0-2 Male (Caregiver) Published: September 29

My husband (age 73) has had atrial fibrillation (AF) for 20 years. At first it was periodic, sometimes precipitated by caffeine and sometimes an unidentified trigger. From the beginning, he has always known immediately when the AF starts. The rate always becomes elevated, and he feels weak, sick to his stomach and increasingly irritable the longer he is in AF. He has never fainted, although the rate goes up to 140-50. He has been on many different medications throughout the years to control the rhythm and rate. It is hard to remember them all but they included digoxin, quinidine, flecainide, amiodarone, sotalol, propranolol and Tikosyn. None of them remained effective long term, reverting to AF. Because he was so symptomatic, we never chose to use rate control alone, although some of these medications affected rate. In the beginning, when the AF was periodic, exercise would sometimes help put him in sinus rhythm. As time went on, the AF became chronic. He had 3 radiofrequency ablations (RFA) done and they were always followed by some type of medication (e.g. Tikosyn, flecainide or amiodarone). The only side effects we remember were violent nightmares from amiodarone. Even though these RFAs followed by rhythm control medication worked for 18 to 24 months, the heart always remodeled and went back into AF. Sleep apnea probably contributed, but he didn't tolerate the CPAP machines. The RFA operation always required an overnight at the hospital and the groin area was tender, but the operation was otherwise well tolerated. The early ablations involved lengthy sedation, which caused some temporary memory problems. These recurrences of AF were stopped by cardioversions that could last 2 to 9 months (always along with rhythm or rate controlling medication). About a year after the 5th ablation, a CT scan showed scar tissue buildup in the pulmonary veins that was sufficient to impede blood flow. They did an operation to install 2 pulmonary stents to improve blood flow which improved his breathing ability. After the 5th ablation, his local cardiologist insisted that he shouldn't have another ablation. He has been on Sotalol since then with cardioversions every 2 to 9 months when the AF recurs. We are concerned about the effect of the repeated cardioversions on his memory but two cardiologists say this is not a concern. AF is also a concern for us when traveling but when he is not in AF, my husband is able to exercise and work physically.

Comment from: Brian, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 22

I have a pacemaker/defibrillator and received a call from pacemaker clinic saying my pacemaker battery was showing low and needed to be changed. I was feeling bad, no energy, just beat and thought the low battery was causing the problem, no. They needed to change the entire pacemaker and just minutes before the cut was made the nurse said I was in atrial fibrillation for a month and out I went. They changed my pacemaker and home I went with a prescription for Pradaxa and didn't improve. May 2015 I was told that cardioversion was not a sure thing and it could cause more problems if they try it and I should just learn to live with my problem and take Pradaxa. I went to see a new cardiologist and he told me to change my Lipitor to Crestor and stop taking Pradaxa and start taking Eliquis. A short time after changing my drugs was I feeling good, not a lot more energy but felt good. About 3 months later I moved and changed my cardiologist who asked me why we don't try a cardioversion and he booked me in. Simple procedure, just shock your heart to see if it works. It worked and I feel like I never had a heart attack, and a lot more energy. If you fit the criteria give it a try. I was told after my original heart attack I had 28 percent heart function. Lower section of heart was damaged. Stop drinking water, drink just enough and that's it. The water hurts you and you don't realize it until you start gaining weight.

Comment from: Big Dennis, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: December 29

I have had 4 cardioversions for my atrial fibrillation since March, 2012. I also have had over 30 EKGs, many blood draws, 1 TEE (transesophageal echocardiogram), 1 heart echo, 1 nuclear stress test and a whole lot of other tests.

Comment from: mauiTodd, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: September 04

I had atrial fibrillation all the time for the last 5 years. Doctors performed a hybrid ablation procedure last November that cured me. No reoccurrence in the ten months since. They claim an 80 percent cure rate. I am told this special procedure is new and only available in the east coast at a few hospitals. Glad I had it done.

Comment from: Judith, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: January 04

I had my first atrial fibrillation event at 50. Over 19 Years it would come and go on its own. Symptoms were pretty violent but never lasted over 4 hours. I only took aspirin all those years. This year I caught bronchitis for a month and went into persistent Afib. I got my heart shocked and it lasted one day. Now they are working at getting my heart rate down. I feel down like life kicked me in the gut. Seems like it is all scary.

Comment from: abob, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: July 18

I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation about six years ago. I had no symptoms, it was caught on an EKG. I also have been diagnosed with blockage within the heart itself. However, I had no symptoms whatsoever until a few months ago when I started wearing a heart rate monitor during exercise. I am a fitness instructor and prior to that my heart rate the last 30 years has been around 60 consistently. My resting heart rate jumped to around 100. I went to a cardiologist who told me that it is normal for patients with atrial fibrillation. I do not take any medications, but watch my diet and continue to exercise 1 to 2 hours per day. The cardiologist suggested I take a blood thinner, but I have heard so many negative things about that. I have no symptoms other than my heart rate increase, during intense exercise, my heart rate reaches 160 plus.

Comment from: dustin, 19-24 Male (Patient) Published: December 21

To start with I am 19 years old. I started having symptoms of atrial fibrillation even though I did not know what I had at the time. I went to the emergency room (ER) and needless to say, what a night! I started with an EKG that showed I had atrial fibrillation that worried me a little bit. They ran an IV and put some diltiazem in me which regulated my heart beat until the male nurse and I got into an argument. At that point my heart rate went to 150 which is borderline as they put it. Well, I did end up leaving the hospital on 12/18/15 at 2:15 against medical advice. If it starts to get worse I will go back to the hospital. I do plan to follow up with a heart doctor as soon as I can. I will keep posting as this goes on.

Comment from: tooyoung, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: March 11

I am a 46 year old female and have was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation a year and half ago. Can I just say wow, this has been a difficult journey! I have no other health issues, therefore I am told that this is a big positive factor. However, I suffer from many symptoms and my cardiologist says that many doctors would find that interesting because the fact that many doctors say that 'fix the other health issues and atrial fibrillation patients should feel little or no symptoms'. Not true in my case, again I have no other health issues. Any way I am set to have a consultation regarding a catheter ablation and I am a bit nervous. My EKG was normal and when I wore the event monitor for weeks apparently it only showed a few rapid heartbeats and missed beats but I feel something wrong with my heart, I feel it! My cardiologist says that it is atrial fibrillation and I currently am taking diltiasem 30 mg twice a day and it does help. I have noticed the rapid heart rate not be as bad, but the missed beat and fluttering are still there as well as many symptoms. The first cardiothoracic surgeon said he felt I should not do the ablation and scared me out of it when my cardiologist feels I am a good candidate for the surgery since I have no other health issues pertaining to the heart. I will be wearing the event monitor for the second time, for a month and I am emotionally exhausted from this. Life changes have been overwhelming as well, I have not worked in over a year and half.

Comment from: Dave, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: February 24

My heart was shocked 3 time in a row went right back into atrial fibrillation. I was told ablation would probably not work.

Comment from: Ronigrl, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: February 11

I had rheumatic heart failure as a kid which led to an enlarged heart and two damaged valves (aortic an mitral). My first surgery was to clear out scar tissue then several years later I had both valves replaced with mechanical valves. Since that surgery I was told that I fell into a small percentage group of people who will experience artial fibulation. I have had to have my heart "shocked" or "converted" about 6 times I am presently taking a medication which is being reviewed. It is so scary and I wonder how often a heart can be shocked like that without other problems. I feel well it is Friday and last Saturday I was cardio-verted.

Comment from: suzann, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: June 16

My a-fib was caused by hyperthyroidism (graves disease) 10 years ago. I drank radioactive iodine to treat the thyroid but the a-fib continued although infrequently. It has become more frequent in the last year. Monthly trips to the hospital via fire department medics. I would convert to sinus rhythm in the hospital with intravenous drugs. The last time my heart beat went to 6 second pauses so they put a pacemaker in so they could increase my Toprol XL to 100 mg. I have had my pacemaker for 2 weeks now and so far I haven't had to call the fire dept. My cardiologist said I still may need cardiac ablation. Time will tell.

Comment from: Laurie, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: March 12

I'm one of the lucky ones. While I've had afib since I was 25, it only occurs occasionally. It is becoming much more frequent over the last five to seven years. I've had them use the paddles once (prefer not to do that again!), and I spent two days in the hospital one other time. For the most part, I use Norpace/disopyramide phosphate and lots of patience. I can say that my symptoms seem to come and go harder now -- it can feel like getting punched when I go into or out of afib, with a "grab the counter so I don't fall" feeling.

Comment from: 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: September 10

My atrial fibrillation medication is Betapace. When I was taking 80 mg of this medication twice a day, my heart rate was too slow, around 45 beats per minute. They did a cardio version and changed my medication to 40 mg, twice a day. At first, the heart rate was fine, around 60 beats per minute. After three months, it started to increase to 70 beats per minute, and now it is around 85 beats per minute. I asked if they could split the dosage to 60 mg, twice a day. They said that that dosage was not available. Now they are considering ablation.

Comment from: Jim, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: September 10

I have been recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I have had bouts with it before on two separate occasions within the last 10 years. Anyhow, I had to have a stent put in; my one artery was 100% blocked. I feel pretty good except on occasion my heart rate will speed up for no apparent reason. When this happens, I feel a little light-headed and sick to my stomach. It has no certain pattern. It can go on and off all day or not happen at all for three to four days. I am currently on Plavix, Lopressor, Zocor, and aspirin and temporarily on prednisone. I don't know whether these symptoms are coming from the medicines or from my heart. My doctor says my heart is in great shape. I wore a holster for the weekend, and it showed an increase in heart rate, a few extra beats, but no signs of true atrial fibrillation.

Comment from: thankful, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: October 20

I started having heart flutters at age 62. It got progressively worse and while driving I would get light-headed and feel like I was going to pass out. I went to the hospital in and was admitted and put on a drug to bring my heartbeat back to normal. That night my heart stopped for 15 seconds and then returned to normal. The next day the flutter started again. I was told I needed a pace maker.

Comment from: Margie, 65-74 Female (Patient) Published: August 14

I am 68 and I was recently diagnosed with A-fib. I have a history of mitral valve prolapse. I had two electrical cardioversions that did not work. I had to be on blood thinner Pradaxa before any attempt at electrical cardioversion. Next to try was using the drug Tikosyn, a more aggressive drug. I was hospitalized for the required three days to proceed with this drug. This wound up being a 5-day stay (2 additional days in ICU) because I went into Torsades de Pointes, a very serious life threatening potentially lethal event as a result of this drug. This event is exactly why you must be hospitalized to try this drug. I was hours away from being discharged when this occurred. Had I been on the way home, I would not have made it alive. This event was reported to the FDA, by me and the hospital. This is can be a very dangerous drug. Research it carefully before you decide to try. I am on Diltiazem, Pradaxa, Lasix, Klor-Con well as Lipitor. I will just live with the A-Fib, I'm done trying anything invasive.

Comment from: jennifer, 25-34 Female (Patient) Published: June 19

I am a 33-year-old female. I've had A-fib for almost two years. I take Atenolol to help to control it. I have episodes of sweating, nausea, fainting, rapid heartbeat, and blurred vision. Sometimes also with chest pain and trouble breathing. My attacks don't happen that often. But when they do, they only last for a few minutes.

Comment from: tictx, 75 or over Female (Caregiver) Published: April 30

A new drug Xarelto is used as a blood thinner. It does not require close monitoring as Coumadin does.

Comment from: stanislous, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: March 08

Had A-Fib on and off for eight or 10 years. AI got to keeping records and found that every time I at CHOCOLATE of all things, that's what would set it off. The theobromine in chocolate caused the problem for me. Caffeine is also something I avoid now too. Who would have guessed chocolate?

Comment from: 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: February 27

I've had A-fib for about three years now. I had one ablation for flutter. I just finished my second PVI ablation. One vein had re-connected after the first PVI. I'm hopeful that the second PVI will get my symptoms under control. My best advice is to get informed. Seek out as much information as possible. Understand the condition. It's so helpful to know what the doctors are talking about during consults. Only then will you be able to make informed decisions regarding your treatment.

Comment from: Tara, 45-54 Female (Caregiver) Published: January 23

My husband is 50 years old. He is on meds for diabetes, and has high cholesterol, high blood pressure. He has had sleep apnea for many years and uses a CPAP machine. He is about 80 lbs overweight. He was diagnosed with A-fib a few months ago.

Comment from: ladychevy, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: August 11

I have A-fib and mitral valve prolapse. The emotional toll on me is far worse than the physical. For years I was misdiagnosed saying it was panic attacks. I have been put on a variety of medications hoping for a stop to this. I finally was told there is no cure for A-fib because of my MVP.

Comment from: Rob_77, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: July 13

I'm 34 years old and I have been dealing with this annoying condition since I was 12. At age 19 my cardiologist did some kind of study that found I had 2 AV nodes so he oblated 1 of them and ever since, I've had palpitations and have been on Toprol XL 25mg daily to control them. I was doing fine until last year I started having much more frequent palpitations and my regular doctor increased my dosage to 50mg daily. My heart has gone into A Fib several times in the past few months so I'm going to see a new cardiologist and see what he/she finds. I hope we can find a solution because it sends me into panic attacks when I have the A fib.

Comment from: A/fib male, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: June 04

I'm a 65 year old male in very good health. I had two episodes of atrial flutter. Two years ago, I had an ablation. One year and a half later, I had another episode of atrial flutter and learned that one of the places previously burned in my ablation was letting a signal pass through. Another ablation resolved that issue. Six months later, after a physical exam, I had an EKG and found that I had a/fib. I went to the hospital for a cardioversion with shock. Stayed in sinus rhythm for thirty minutes, then they took me upstairs and put me on Tikosyn, and monitored me for the required three days. One month follow up EKG was fine. They put me on an event monitor, and it has initiated several tests. I've called them in, but I haven't been back to doctor to learn results. I've been on Coumadin since a week before the cardioversion attempt.

Comment from: ndbgjhn, 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: April 05

I have had atrial fibrillation for the past five years. I had a heart attack seven years ago. I had a heart bypass three years ago and then atrial fibrillation got really bad. It was so bad one time the paramedics didn't know if they should use the paddles on the way to the ER, which was 30 miles away. I have had heart oblation, the heart conversion, and I'm going to have another heart oblation, as they didn't do it all the first time.

Comment from: Lucky, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: March 24

I am a 55 year old female who was finally diagnosed with a-fib in October 2007. (Had mild to moderate symptoms for about 20 years, but wearing monitors and having lots of tests never caught it.) Have had numerous tests (EKGs, echo, CT, Thallium Stress, X-rays, etc.) since my diagnosis, but no one can tell me where it is coming from or why I have it. I made 4 ambulance trips to ER in less than 4 months back in 2007-2008 and they were able to catch it. My heart rate on the 1st trip was 320 ! Gave me IV beta blockers. Was put on low dose of meds initially. By 4th trip to ER, they put me on 50 mg twice a day. It helped a lot initially, but the drug seems to have lost some of its punch. The doctor approved taking 400 mg of magnesium oxide every day to help control the very erratic rhythm....and it helped a lot at first. But, I continued to have severe episodes about once a month or so. Seems to have numerous "triggers", so can't seem to avoid them.

Comment from: 35-44 Male (Patient) Published: March 12

I thought my atrial fibrillation was perhaps stress due to my unemployment, uninsured situation until I ran into other (young) people suffering from this who urged I check it out (chose community pay-what-you-can hospital). I knew enough going in that it probably wouldn't happen at doc's office, but I was recommended a doctor who knew something about this. He put me in touch with specialists who had me wear a portable heart monitor for 1 month. Even though I'm being told I haven't done my heart any real damage by leaving this untreated, I urge other young people TO HAVE THIS CHECKED OUT. If only to restore normalcy to your life. I'm taking 1 beta-blocker per day (metoprolol) at 25 mgs. The light-headedness and breathlessness and racing/pounding heart I endured have all settled down. Considering ablation surgery down the road once insured. But for now, the beta-blockers are working and have not really noticed any side effects. Best of luck. You can get fixed.

Comment from: lisasluck, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 07

I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation when I was 46. The medications that were prescribed for me are no longer working, so my doctor is starting to talk to be about alternatives. I want to get to the root of this problem so I can enjoy my life with my son instead of always feeling tired and out of breath.

Comment from: Helena, 55-64 Male (Caregiver) Published: January 04

My 62yr old husband was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation after suffering symptoms similar to heart failure i.e. pain in chest and difficulty breathing. A year onwards, he has had medication and the disappointment of 2 electro cardio-version treatments; the first didn't work at all, the second worked for 3 months, but reverted 4 days ago. The medics have been efficient as far as we know, but rather dismissive in terms of dealing with the sense of devastation one feels after things don't work,especially for a man who has only ever seen a G.P. half a dozen times during adult life! Also, we still have no real idea of why he got it or if [as he's inclined to do] he can live with it and not bother with doctors anymore. I feel we should be better informed about prognosis and available treatments. As it is, I'm surfing the Web to see what options he might have.

Comment from: pjohn, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: November 18

I am a 45 year old female who has had a heart attack at 42, mini stroke at 45, and now atrial fibrillation. One day at 3am my heart started racing to 180. I went to hospital it took 36hrs to get it under control by medication. I spent 5 days in the hospital. I am too young for this.

Comment from: liam, Male (Caregiver) Published: November 03

Treatment for my wife is exclusively daily use of warfarin, as determined by blood tests every 10 days to two weeks. It seems to be successful. She has had atrial fibrillation for about 9 years.

Comment from: Jan, 75 or over Female (Patient) Published: October 06

I am an 87 year old female recently diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. Mine occurs only at night. There has been no pain only a feeling of breathlessness along with the fluttering. It occurs upon waking and seems like my heart is trying to catch up to a waking rhythm. While going on my pulse is slow but then I have just been asleep. The length of the episodes is different, but lately have been lasting a half hour or more. I also have a bigeminal ventricular arrythmia that I take propanolol for. So far my doctor has not prescribed any additional medication.

Comment from: Old Guy, 75 or over Male (Patient) Published: July 25

I discovered AF after my blood began to coagulate with the result that I had water retention and breathlessness through the congestion in the lungs. One day in hospital on diuretics medication and the water/urine flooded out. Since them I have been on warfarin; I lost about 30lbs and lots of muscle and fat. Pulse around 57, systolic around 130, diastolic too low around 54. No serious AF symptoms but the warfarin etc killed my appetite for months; I see the cardiologist next month, fingers crossed. Sent by 81 year old Caucasian male still playing golf (but not as well!)

Comment from: Mary, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: October 29

I had persistent A-Fib which was treated by cardiac ablation in April. The symptoms recurred after only two weeks. In August I had my second ablation - and that fixed it. It is now end of October and I have not had any recurrences. I am off all drugs which was my goal. I would highly recommend the procedure. My doctor told me he could do up to four ablations if necessary.

Comment from: ginqueen, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: September 01

I am having tests done to see if I have a-fib. After reading other peoples stories I am worried. 13 years ago I was diagnosed with Wolff Parkinson White Syndrome and the symptoms are very similar. I had a heart rate of 230 bpm, was de-fibbed, put on medication and had 4 ablations. Now a-fib!!! I was advised not to drink caffeine based drinks and foods (chocolate!) also when having palpitations to put my face into a bucket of ice, massage the neck where the pulse is and to sit on my haunches while holding nose and blow(like trying to unblock ears)but not all at the same time! Can't say that worked for me but hopefully that will work for others.

Comment from: 65-74 Male (Patient) Published: August 06

I'm male, 72. First A-Fib event 10 years ago. First cardioversion about 2 years ago, and three more since then. Normal rhythm lasts 5-6 months after cardioversion, then AF returns with no particular 'triggers' that I can determine. I have more energy and endurance when in normal rhythm. I'll continue with cardioversions as long as it makes sense to do so, and cardiologist (and Medicare Advantage company) agree.

Comment from: 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: June 21

I could not take the Metoprolol very long because of terrible leg cramps. Switched to Diltiazem and could tolerate better. Still have the leg cramps, but not as much if I don't take the meds every day. I am already on Coumadin for a mechanical valve.

Comment from: lbflorida, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: May 20

I have always had issues with my heart from palpitations since I was 15 yrs old, to now finally being diagnosed with atrial fibrillation it is such a uncomfortable feeling, I also suffer with HBP since 2000 and I have been on a beta blocker for two years now, I always feel weak and tired, my goal is to lose weight, I notice when I walk I feel stronger, however the feelings from this condition can be overwhelming, weakness in the chest, tightness in the chest and extreme flutters to the pint of feeling like I will pass out, this a scary feeling, I have a young child to raise and I want to finish school!

Comment from: mike v, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: January 28

I had an irregular/high heart rate for about three years before I was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. I would have spells lasting about 3 hours where my heart rate would fluxuate between 120 and 170 beats per minute; this would happen about three times a month, sometimes 3 times a week. The frustrating part is that it never happened when I was at the doctor's office. I finally asked my doctor what I should do when I have a spell and he said to go to the emergency room. As soon as I got there they hooked me up and it took them 10 seconds to make the diagnosis. I am just now starting medication.

Medically reviewd by Robert J. Bryg, MD., Board Certified Internal Medicine with subspecialty in Cardiovascular Disease REFERENCES:

"Atrial Fibrillation Fact Sheet." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Feb. 2010. <http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/docs/fs_atrial_fibrillation.pdf>.

"Heart Disease Pictures Slideshow: A Visual Guide to Heart Disease." MedicineNet. 30 Sept. 2009. <https://www.medicinenet.com/heart_disease_pictures_slideshow_visual_guide/article.htm>.

Gage, Brian F., et al. "Validation of clinical classification schemes for predicting stroke: results from the National Registry of Atrial Fibrillation." The Journal of the American Medical Association 285.22 (2001): 2864-2870.

Rosenthal, Lawrence, et al. "Atrial Fibrillation." Medscape. 30 Jan. 2012. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/151066-overview#a0104>.

Rosenthal, Lawrence, et al. "Atrial Fibrillation Medication." Medscape. 15 Mar. 2012. <http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/151066-medication>.



UpToDate. Patient information: Atrial fibrillation (Beyond the Basics).

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