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Atrial Fibrillation
(CR004)

Introduction


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is characterized by an irregular and rapid beating of the heart's atrial chambers and results when the normal electrical conduction system of the atria is not functioning properly. In AF, there is a storm of electrical activity across both atria causing them to fibrillate (quiver) 300-600 times per minute.

Only a small number of these impulses are picked up by the ventricles, but the ventricular rate can approach 180 or higher. Whether at high or low heart rates, the irregular rhythm renders the ventricle unable to pump efficiently. This leads to pooling of the blood within the heart and insufficient amounts of blood being supplied to the body. This can result in a variety of symptoms and problems.

AF affects approximately 2 million people, with 160,000 new cases being diagnosed each year. It is estimated that AF is responsible for over 70,000 strokes each year in the United States. The prevalence of AF increases with age.

Treatment of atrial fibrillation requires medication, and often one of a variety of surgical procedures. Cardioversion refers to the restoration of the heart's normal rhythm and is commonly the first step in treating AF. Cardioversion can be accomplished in two ways: electrically (direct-current cardioversion) or pharmacologically.

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The Medifocus Guide on Atrial Fibrillation provides answers to the following important questions and medical issues:


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This MediFocus Guide contains an extensive listing of citations and abstracts of recent journal articles that have been published about this condition in trustworthy medical journals. This is the same type of information that is available to physicians and other health care professionals. A partial selection of journal articles that are abstracted in this MediFocus Guide includes:


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