Stating that atrial fibrillation is the most common sustained cardiac arrhythmia, Dr A M Karthigesan, senior consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist, Department of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, Apollo Hospitals, said, “It confers a substantial mortality and morbidity from stroke, thromboembolism, heart failure and impaired quality of life.”
As the prevalence of this disorder increases rapidly with advancing age, he said that 3.8 per cent of people over 60 years of age and 9 per cent of the population above 80 years of age struggle with this disorder.
“We had a patient of 60 years, who recently had an episode. He felt a violent pounding in his chest and his heart skipped a beat. He complained that his heart was beating faster than usual and he felt completely breathless. He was then diagnosed of atrial fibrillation,” added the doctor.
A growing problem among the elderly, it includes symptoms like rapid heartbeat, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue or dizziness, fainting and chest pain. “It is common for the elderly to experience a few or all of the above symptoms. It has been seen that many old patients who have cardiovascular diseases are likely to suffer from this condition and most patients recall having a frightening experience during the episode,” he said.
It is important to note that in addition to age, other factors commonly associated with atrial fibrillation include high blood pressure, heart valve disease, thyroid problems and sleep apnea. People with atrial fibrillation usually have an increased risk of stroke as clot formation may take place in the poorly contracting atria.
Prevention of thromboembolism should be initiated by oral anticoagulation drug therapy in high risk patients. Parallel to this ventricular rate control and correction of rhythm disturbance by anti-arrhythmic drugs is very important. However, Dr Karthigesan said, “When one hears of heart related diseases, all they think about is a heart attack. Awareness on atrial fibrillation and related problems is completely lacking. These clots can give rise to stroke and cause heart failure, which is why awareness on this condition is highly essential. People think that the only way to manage heart related problems is through medical treatment, due to the lack of awareness on radio frequency ablation. We use 3D mapping to identify which portion of the heart is affected.”
Once the spot is identified, we remove the clot with radio frequency ablation – a smart touch technology.
“Though the concept is not very new, this technology – to identify the spot with such accuracy - in particular, is very new to India,” added Dr Karthigesan.
- Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common abnormal heart rhythms.
- The prevalence of this disorder increases rapidly with advancing age Symptoms include rapid heartbeat, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue or dizziness, fainting and chest pain.
- Other commonly associated factors include high blood pressure, heart valve disease, thyroid problems and sleep apnea.