Hunterdon Cardiovascular Associates (HCA) has established The Center for Atrial Fibrillation and Electrophysiology to bring the best of both cutting-edge technology and personalized care to you. The center provides state-of-the-art arrhythmia diagnosis and treatment, with an emphasis on making important decisions with you, rather than for you.
- Personalized consultation
- Ambulatory cardiac monitoring
- Loop recorder implantation and interpretation
- Pacemaker and defibrillator implantation and clinic
- Specialty atrial fibrillation (AFib) management
- Cardiac electrophysiology testing
- Cardiac ablation
- WATCHMAN procedure
The risk of AFib increases with age, and many people with AFib have some form of underlying heart problem. Common causes of AFib include:
- Hypertension, particularly longstanding
- Prior heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart valve problems, such as mitral regurgitation or mitral stenosis
- Major surgery, especially heart surgery
- Alcohol use, including intermittent heavy (“binge”) drinking
- Hyperthyroidism: AFib occurs in about 15 percent of all people with an overactive thyroid gland
- Medications: some medications can precipitate AFib as a side effect
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Most chronic lung diseases, particularly emphysema
- Physical inactivity
- Chronic kidney disease
What Happens During AFib
Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes with a regular rhythm. In AFib, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) activate chaotically. This disorganization stops the atria from pumping normally. When this happens, it significantly increases the risk that a blood clot will form in the left atrium. If a clot forms and becomes dislodged, it can be carried through the bloodstream to the brain, where it may lodge in an artery, blocking the flow of blood, and resulting in a stroke. About 15-20 percent of strokes are caused by AFib. To help prevent a stroke, most people with AFib are prescribed an anticoagulant, also known as a blood thinner.
AFib can also lead to symptoms including:
- Heart racing or skipping beats
- Chest tightness or pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty catching one’s breath
- Heart failure
- Or no symptoms at all
While under anesthesia, pads are placed on the chest to deliver an electric current that resets your heart rhythm. Some people with newly diagnosed AFib may have the option to undergo pharmacologic cardioversion, in which a medication is used to restore the normal heart rhythm.
Many medications can be used to help treat different aspects of AFib. Our expert team will help you understand your medications and answer all of your questions.
Pacemakers are electronic devices that prevent the heartbeat from becoming too slow. Some people with AFib have periods of slow heart rates for which a pacemaker is needed. Ablation can be used in conjunction with pacemaker implantation in some people with AFib that does not respond to either treatment alone.
Ablation is a medical procedure that offers the best chance at maintaining a normal heart rhythm for patients with AFib. Thermal energy, either heat (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryoablation) is applied to the area of the heart responsible for initiating or maintaining AFib. Cardiac ablation is most effective for people with an early form of the condition (paroxysmal AFib), but may still provide benefit for those with more advanced (persistent) AFib. This is especially true for those patients who want to take fewer long-term medications.
Other Types of Arrhythmias Treated
AFib is just one kind of arrhythmia—a supraventricular arrhythmia. The Center for Atrial Fibrillation and Electrophysiology treats many other arrhythmias besides AFib. Other arrhythmias treated include:
- Tachycardia: heart rhythm of more than 100 beats per minute
- Bradycardia: heart rhythm below 60 beats per minute
- Bradyarrhythmias: slow heart rhythms caused by disease in the heart’s conduction system
- Supraventricular arrhythmias: begin in the upper (supra) chambers of the heart (the atria)
- Atrial flutter: similar to AFib, but less chaotic beating
- Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome (WPW): congenital disorder; an extra electrical pathway between heart’s upper and lower chambers causes rapid heartbeat; rare
- Ventricular arrhythmias: begin in the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles)
- Brugada syndrome: genetic disorder; causes a dangerous irregular heartbeat; can result in cardiac arrest
- Ventricular tachycardia: three or more heartbeats in a row at a rate of more than 100 beats per minute
- Long QT syndrome (LQTS): can cause fast, chaotic heartbeats; acquired or congenital; often misdiagnosed as seizure disorder