Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and generally rapid heart rhythm that can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure. Atrial fibrillation symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy or close to blacking out and weakness.

Overview

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and generally rapid heart rhythm that can increase the risk of stroke and heart failure. Atrial fibrillation symptoms include palpitations, shortness of breath, feeling dizzy or close to blacking out and weakness.

When the heart is in atrial fibrillation, the upper two chambers of the heart (the atria), lose their coordinated electrical activity and, therefore, just wriggle or “fibrillate” rather than contract. This means
they are not contributing to the normal pump function of the heart, and so the heart’s beating is much less efficient. This inefficiency can be a cause of the heart failure syndrome.

There is often an increase in stroke risk with atrial fibrillation. This is because one of the factors which stops the blood from clotting is the continual movement of the blood. In atrial fibrillation, blood can pool in the pouch on the side of the left atrium known as the left atrial appendage. If this blood clots, it can break off and cause a stroke.

Atrial Fibrillation Diagnosis:

This is based on the symptoms the patient experiences and the signs your doctor detects on examination. Tests also used are:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Holter monitor – a 24-hour sample of your heart’s rhythm on the ECG
  • Echocardiogram – an ultrasound of the heart which provides information about the structure and function of the heart (in particular, cardiac valves and chamber size and contraction of the main heart chamber known as the left ventricle)
  • Blood tests – to rule out medical conditions which may contribute to atrial fibrillation such as an overactive thyroid
  • Sleep study – where appropriate, patients are referred for a sleep study since untreated sleep apnoea is an important contributor to the development of atrial fibrillation
  • Exercise stress testing/exercise stress echocardiogram – a test that looks for evidence of coronary artery disease or exercise-induced arrhythmias
  • Chest x-ray – may be required on occasion to look for evidence of a medical illness contributing to the development of atrial fibrillation
  • Cardiac MRI – a very detailed look at the structure of the heart and the tissue characteristics of the cardiac muscle
Atrial Fibrillation Assessment and Management at Nightingale Cardiology:

Nightingale Cardiology runs a dedicated, comprehensive atrial fibrillation management program.  

This begins with assessing newly referred patients with a history, cardiac examination and appropriate tests  with highly skilled and experienced cardiologists.  

Patients with the related arrhythmia known as atrial flutter, can also be seen through this clinic.  

An individually tailored management plan is then developed for each patient. Management strategies include:

  • Lifestyle modification
  • Appropriate medications
  • For selected patients, catheter ablation procedures – our team uses the most highly advanced three-dimensional mapping technologies and catheter techniques with an experience of over 1000 atrial fibrillation ablation cases over a >15 years

Appointments can be made by contacting our staff at Nightingale Cardiology. A GP referral is needed for Medicare benefits.