How are atrial arrhythmias treated?
Treatment for atrial arrhythmias depends greatly upon you and your symptoms. Generally, your doctor will focus on treatments that help control your heart rate and reduce the risk of blood clots.
Several factors are considered in determining the appropriate method of treatment:
- Your age
- Overall health
- Your personal and family medical history
- Medications you may be taking for other conditions
- Underlying diseases or conditions that may contribute to the arrhythmia
- The nature and severity of the arrhythmia and its symptoms
Possible treatment options include one or a combination of treatments.
These may help improve or reduce the occurrence of an arrhythmia. They may include eating a more heart-healthy diet, limiting or eliminating the amount of caffeine, exercising regularly, and stopping smoking.
Blood thinners, such as aspirin or warfarin, are commonly prescribed, to prevent the blood from pooling and causing a blood clot to form.
Two additional types of medications are used to treat arrhythmias: antiarrhythmic medicine, which control the rhythm of the heart, and beta blockers, which control the rate at which the heart beats. They may be used alone or along with other treatments.
Cardioversion uses electrical energy to change an arrhythmia back to a normal rhythm. By delivering a controlled electric shock through the chest to the heart, cardioverters "shock" the heart back into a normal heart rhythm. It is performed in a hospital while the patient is under heavy sedation. During emergencies, the shock may be delivered through an automatic external defibrillator, or AED.
For many patients with atrial arrhythmias, medications cannot effectively control the arrhythmia or may cause serious side effects. For these individuals, a procedure called cardiac ablation may be considered. With cardiac ablation, a catheter is positioned inside the heart to target therapy at the tissue responsible for the arrhythmia.
Some patients may need a pacemaker after an ablation procedure.