There are many different types of treatment for atrial fibrillation. This usually involves taking steps to decrease your risk of stroke, taking anticoagulants and controlling your heart rate. Your doctor will recommend a treatment plan based on your symptoms, your age, your risk of complications, and whether you have an underlying cause that needs to be treated.
Treating the underlying cause
Firstly, your doctor will try to identify if there is a known cause of your atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, treating the condition that triggers atrial fibrillation is enough to reverse it.
For example, if you have hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland), the most ideal course of action would be to treat your hyperthyroidism in order to stop your atrial fibrillation.
Stroke and blood clot prevention
The key in managing atrial fibrillation is to prevent complications such as stroke. Blood thinners such as direct oral anticoagulants (DOACs) or vitamin K antagonists (VKAs) such as warfarin, can be prescribed to reduce the overall risk of stroke and blood clots.
Heart rate control
You may be prescribed medications to restore your heart to a normal rate. Examples of these medications include beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers and digoxin.
Heart rhythm control
Another method to treat atrial fibrillation is by restoring a normal heart rhythm. This can be done using medications or cardioversion. Medications that may be prescribed include Amiodarone, Sotalol and Flecainide.
Electrical cardioversion may be used in some patients with atrial fibrillation to reset the heart’s rate and rhythm. Electrical cardioversion is a controlled electric shock delivered to your heart while under sedation.
Catheter ablation is a procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to target the diseased area of your heart. A thin catheter is guided through your blood vessels to your heart. The tip of the catheter produces an energy source that creates heat to destroy the part of your heart that is triggering atrial fibrillation. Catheter ablation may be offered if medications have not been effective in managing atrial fibrillation.
Pacemakers are small electronic devices that stimulate the heart with electrical impulses to maintain or restore a normal heartbeat. Some people with atrial fibrillation have periods of very slow heart rates. In such cases, a pacemaker is needed.
Invasive and surgical procedures
Invasive procedures such as the placement of a left atrial appendage occluder to reduce risk of blood clots, or surgical procedures that are usually performed during concomitant open heart surgery, may sometimes be recommended for selected patients.