New Onset Atrial Fibrillation

Dr T Your Heart Rhythm Leave a Comment

Submitted by Dr T on July 19, 2011 – 3:33pm

Question:
Dr T,
I am trying to determine whether to see a cardiologist immediately.  My health insurance does not begin until August 1. I had an onset of Atrial Fibrillation as of July 17.  It was fairly severe in which I could feel my heart fluttering, nearly passed out and was carted off in an ambulance.  After 8 hours and injections of Cartezoid (sp?) my heart became normal again. I suspect I may have had up to half a dozen very light incidences of this problem over the past 14 months. I am male, 53, in fairly good shape (run 10-15 miles per week at an 8 minute pace) and I am not aware of any other problems with my health. Yesterday, my ankles swelled a bit yesterday which is highly unusual. I would highly appreciate your thoughts.
Answer:
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular and often rapid heart rate that may cause a diminished heart function and blood flow to the rest of your body. Although AF itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition. It appears to me the swelling in your legs indicate your heart is not tolerating the AF and thus some degree of heart failure.
Therefore it needs treatment (or at least evaluation) now! Since the goals of treating atrial fibrillation are to reset your heart rhythm or control the rate and prevent blood clots, both need to be looked at. Whether you can wait till August is a decision only you can make. What you can do in the meantime, is to cut out caffeine and other stimulants, as well as limit your physical activities, since your heart in AF is not working at its best.
Hope this helps,
Dr T

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