Man and wife

Atrial fibrillation, commonly known as AFib, is a form of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) which occurs in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria).

The upper chambers beat out of rhythm with the lower chambers, causing blood to flow poorly through the body.

This poor blood flow can lead to blood clots and a stroke. In fact, the risk of stroke is up to 10% per year.

AFib treatment may include medication, a procedure or a combination of the two. At the UM Capital Region Heart and Vascular Institute, our heart surgery team will work with you to find the best treatment option.

To learn more about our program or to make an appointment, call 301-640-6622.

AFib Symptoms

Atrial fibrillation may or may not show symptoms. When symptoms are present, they may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath

Atrial flutter has similar symptoms to AFib, but it the symptoms are more mild and less chaotic.

Diagnosing AFib

At the UM Capital Region HVI, we have access to advanced heart testing and diagnostic tools. Options for testing include:

  • Blood test
  • Chest CT
  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Holter Monitor (a type of ECG)
  • Stress test

Treating AFib

When treating AFib, the goal is to reset the irregular heartbeat and prevent stroke.

The strategy for how we treat AFib has many factors including age, overall health and related conditions.

Sometimes, medication can control your heart's rhythm. Other times, a procedure is the best option to return the heart to a normal rhythm. This could include:

  • Cardioversion: a shock to the heart. This is an outpatient procedure.
  • Catheter ablation: a burning or freezing of heart muscles.
  • Internal Cardio Defibrillator (ICD) or Pacemaker: both are implantable devices which monitor the heart's activity, helping it back to a normal rhythm if it's too slow (pacemaker) or too fast (ICD)
  • Maze Procedure: when medicine or cardioversion do not work, the Maze procedure is an option to straighten the heart's electrical pathway using heat or extreme cold.

Our team will also work with you to prevent a possible stroke, a major risk for people with AFib. This may include lifestyle changes, an aspirin regimen or blood thinners.

Make an Appointment

To learn more about our program or to make an appointment, call 301-640-6622.

James M. Brown, MD

James M. Brown, MD

Associate Professor of Surgery