Atrial fibrillation refers to the condition wherein an individual has an irregular heart rhythm. When this happens, the heart’s upper chambers beat irregularly and out of coordination with the lower chambers. Symptoms can include heart palpitations, weakness, and shortness of breath. This condition can increase the chances of suffering from strokes, heart failures, or other health complications related to the heart.
The treatment for atrial fibrillation can be done through various procedures, including surgical and non-surgical procedures.
1. Surgical methods to treat atrial fibrillation
Surgery is a very common treatment option for atrial fibrillation.
The most common surgical procedure is to insert a pacemaker into the body. This is a device that regulates heart rhythm and helps to ensure it is normal. The pacemaker is surgically inserted near the collarbone with a wire to the heart and sends an electrical signal to regulate the heartbeat. Modern variants of the pacemaker can detect abnormalities in the heart rhythm and send impulses to bring it back to the normal rhythm.
- Maze procedure
A maze procedure is required in severe cases. This is a surgery where cuts are made in the area around the heart to create scar tissue. The scar tissue can regulate the electrical impulses to the heart and normalize the heartbeat. This may be done as an open heart surgery where an incision is made on the chest. A mini-maze surgery may be used where small cuts are made and a camera on a catheter is inserted to help the surgeon in creating scar tissue. Nowadays, robot-assisted surgery is done for this procedure.
- Catheter ablation
In this procedure, a catheter (thin tube) is used to destroy the tissue in the heart that is causing an increased heartbeat. The catheter is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and guided to the blood vessel of the heart. The tip of the tube is used to destroy the heart tissue causing scar tissue. This can be done in two ways. One is by radiofrequency, where energy is used to create heat to destroy the tissues, and the other way is cryotherapy where the tissues are frozen to destroy it. Once the tissue causing problems are destroyed, it forms scar tissue that helps the heart rhythm be normal again.
- AV node ablation
This is another form of ablation that is used to destroy heart tissue interfering with the normal heart rhythm. In this procedure, the catheter is inserted and radiofrequency energy is used to the atrioventricular (AV) node that connects the upper and lower chamber of the heart. This helps in destroying part of the heart tissue through heat. Along with this procedure, a pacemaker may also be inserted to regulate heart rhythm. This procedure is needed when catheter ablation doesn’t work.
2. Non-surgical treatments for atrial fibrillation
Electrical cardioversion is a non-surgical procedure where the doctor uses paddles or places electrodes, which are used to deliver an electric shock to the heart. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia and s can help to make the heart rhythm normal again.