Nationally Recognized Center for Atrial Fibrillation Care
As one of the first specialized electrophysiology centers in the country, our Atrial Fibrillation Center at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute provides state-of-the-art diagnostics, management and treatment of atrial fibrillation, a condition that increases the risk of stroke and congestive heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation, or AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm. During AFib, the signal to start the heartbeat is disorganized, causing the upper chambers or atria of the heart to quiver or fibrillate. The contraction of the atria and the ventricles is no longer coordinated and the amount of blood pumped out to the body varies with each heartbeat. This can lead to blood pooling, increasing the risk of forming blood clots. These clots can then break off and lodge in an artery leading to the brain, which is why AFib significantly increases your risk for stroke.
Pioneering Potential AFib Cure with Ablation Therapy
Our board-certified and fellowship-trained electrophysiologists have been involved with both the development and clinical delivery of catheter ablation techniques for more than 25 years. Ablation has the potential to cure AFib, helping to restore normal heart rhythm and eliminate the need for atrial fibrillation medications and blood thinners, so patients can lead normal, active lives again. Our long-term ablation results equal or surpass the expected procedural success rates of the most experienced centers worldwide.
State-of-the-Art Diagnosis and Treatment of AFib
With heart rhythm care available at convenient locations across northeast Ohio, our board-certified physicians perform a thorough medical examination, along with the latest in diagnostic tests to record the heart’s rhythm or identify any irregularities. Tests for AFib include:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG): A noninvasive recording of the electrical activity of your heart.
- Holter monitor: A portable device that records a continuous record of the electrical activity of your heart for 24-48 hours; this would record heart rhythm abnormalities that occur intermittently and may be undetected on the ECG.
- Event monitor: A portable device usually issued for 12-30 days to record arrhythmias that occur infrequently.
Leading-edge treatments for atrial fibrillation may include medications or electrical cardioversion, a procedure to reset the heart’s rhythm. Additionally, our experts offer advanced procedures, including:
- AFib ablation with pulmonary vein isolation, or PVI: Our team electrically isolates the rhythm issue around the pulmonary veins and through catheter delivery, tiny electrodes destroy the tissue to block the irregular impulses.
- Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation and pacemaker implantation: The AV node conducts electrical impulses from the top to bottom chambers of the heart. The ablation of the AV node eliminates the irregular heartbeat and the placement of a pacemaker controls the rhythm.
- Surgical treatment for atrial fibrillation: Depending on the severity of your AFib issues, our surgical team may need to perform a more complex surgical procedure to correct the transmission of electrical impulses that cause AFib.
- Permanent implantation of a special device designed to close the left atrial appendage for non-valvular atrial fibrillation. This may prevent the migration of blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke.
These more advanced procedures allow our experts to correct AFib when medications have not been effective. These procedures are minimally invasive and can either remove the cause of the AFib or implant a pacemaker to regulate the heart’s rhythm.
Understanding AFib Risk Factors
AFib can occur from a range of conditions that change the heart’s electrical system. The risk of AFib increases as you age mostly because the risk for heart disease and other conditions that can cause AFib also increase as you get older.
AFib is more common in those who have:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart defects at birth or congenital heart defects
- Heart failure
- Heart valve defects (like mitral valve prolapse)
- High blood pressure
- Inflammation (pericarditis)
- Lung diseases, such as COPD or emphysema
- Metabolic syndrome
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Rheumatic heart disease, caused by rheumatic fever in which permanent damage to the heart valves occur
- Sick sinus syndrome, when the normal pacemaker of the heart, called the sinus node, isn’t working properly
AFib is also more likely to happen due to stress from an infection such as pneumonia or other illnesses, or right after surgery. Even stress from daily living, caffeine and alcohol may also induce an occurrence of an AFib attack or heart rhythm disturbances.
Comprehensive Resources and Care for an AFib Diagnosis
University Hospitals serves as a comprehensive educational resource for patients and their referring physicians. Beyond providing leading medical, ablative and surgical treatments, we also participate in investigational clinical trials evaluating new strategies, medicines and technologies for treating AFib. In addition, our STOP (Simplified Therapeutic Options) AFib Program actively incorporates input and collaboration with referring physicians in the management of each patient’s case.