TREATMENT STRATEGIES FOR AF
When AF has been continuous (also called persistent) for a long time or the exact onset of AF is unclear and the patient has no or minor symptoms then a treatment plan may include accepting the AF arrhythmia and preventing rapid heart rates. This is called a ‘Rate Control Strategy’ for AF treatment. It should always include diagnosis and treatment of other interacting cardiac and medical conditions, and stroke prevention treatment.
In many instances when AF causes significant symptoms or is negatively impacting health the major goal of treatment is to restore normal rhythm and prevent recurrence of episodes of AF. This is called a ‘Rhythm Control Strategy’ for AF treatment. Treatment options to restore normal rhythm need to be individualised and may be adjusted over time.
‘Antiarrhythmic drugs’ refers to a group of medications, which are designed to suppress the onset of arrhythmia and to help maintain the heart in normal rhythm. The different medications may vary in their efficacy in controlling AF from person to person and also have different possible side effects and potential safety issues.
OTHER RHYTHM CONTROL TREATMENTS
For people who are in continuous AF and the rhythm has not returned to normal on its own a cardioversion procedure may be required to restore the normal heart rhythm. In a small numberof people an implant of a permanent pacemaker may be required to correct “slow heart beats” while drug treatments for AF are continued to correct fast or erratic heart rhythms.
CATHETER ABLATION FOR AF
Catheter ablation for AF is a keyhole procedure to direct energy treatment inside the heart to the source of the abnormal electrical impulses and circuits that cause AF episodes.
STROKE PREVENTION FOR AF
AF leads to an increased risk of a blood clot forming in the top chambers of the heart which, if it dislodges may travel to the brain and result in a stroke. Stroke prevention treatments in AF need to be tailored to the individual risk of stroke and bleeding risk.