Doctors & patients are saying about 'A-Fib.com'...


"A-Fib.com is a great web site for patients, that is unequaled by anything else out there."

Dr. Douglas L. Packer, MD, FHRS, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN

"Jill and I put you and your work in our prayers every night. What you do to help people through this [A-Fib] process is really incredible."

Jill and Steve Douglas, East Troy, WI 

“I really appreciate all the information on your website as it allows me to be a better informed patient and to know what questions to ask my EP. 

Faye Spencer, Boise, ID, April 2017

“I think your site has helped a lot of patients.”

Dr. Hugh G. Calkins, MD  Johns Hopkins,
Baltimore, MD


Doctors & patients are saying about 'Beat Your A-Fib'...


"If I had [your book] 10 years ago, it would have saved me 8 years of hell.”

Roy Salmon, Patient, A-Fib Free,
Adelaide, Australia

"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su,
Cavanaugh Heart Center, 
Phoenix, AZ

"...masterful. You managed to combine an encyclopedic compilation of information with the simplicity of presentation that enhances the delivery of the information to the reader. This is not an easy thing to do, but you have been very, very successful at it."

Ira David Levin, heart patient, 
Rome, Italy

"Within the pages of Beat Your A-Fib, Dr. Steve Ryan, PhD, provides a comprehensive guide for persons seeking to find a cure for their Atrial Fibrillation."

Walter Kerwin, MD, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA


FAQ

Frequently-Asked-Questions

Warnings on Decongestants: Which are Safe for A-Fib Patients

I’ve answered a question from Ryan Farhat who asked an important question about taking over-the-counter decongestants.

“There are warnings for heart patients on some packages of decongestants. As someone with A-Fib, which are safe for me to take?”

When you have a stuffed up nose from a cold or allergies, a decongestant can cut down on the fluid in the lining of your nose. That relieves swollen nasal passages and congestion. (In general, an antihistamine doesn’t help.)

Though it can relieve symptoms, a decongestant doesn’t speed your recovery.

Decongestants and Heart Disease

Most decongestants carry a warning which says something like, “Do not use this product if you have heart disease, high blood pressure, thyroid disease, or diabetes.”

The Problem: When taking a decongestant, heart rate and blood pressure go up, the heart beats stronger, blood vessels constrict in nasal passages reducing fluid build-up. For A-Fib patients this can trigger or induce their Atrial Fibrillation.

The main active ingredient in many decongestants (e.g. Sudafed Congestion) is pseudoephedrine, a stimulant. It is well known for shrinking swollen nasal mucous membranes.

A Safe Substitute? A substitute for pseudoephedrine is phenylephrine. In general, phenylephrine is milder than pseudoephedrine and also less effective in treating nasal congestion. As with other decongestants, it causes the constriction of blood vessels and increases blood pressure.

There is anecdotal evidence that products with phenylephrine (e.g. Sudafed PE, Dimetapp and Triaminic) might be less of a trigger for A-Fib than pseudoephedrine (e.g. Sudafed).

Many medicines combine an antihistamine and decongestant, like Allegra-D, Benadryl Allergy Plus Sinus, Claritin-D, and Zyrtec-D. The “D” means it has a decongestant.

What About Antihistamines?

Antihistamines reduce the effects of histamine in the body which can produce sneezing, runny nose, etc. Though they can lessen your symptoms, some can aggravate a heart condition, or be dangerous when mixed with blood pressure drugs and certain heart medicines.

Compared to decongestants, antihistamines are often better tolerated by people with A-Fib.

Examples are Claritin (loratadine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), Allegra (fexofenadine), and Coricidin HBP (chlorpheniramine maleate) but it also contains acetaminophen and a cough suppressant. Note: “Claritin-D” also has a decongestant.

Bottom Line

Antihistamines and decongestants can give much-needed relief for a runny or congested nose. But A-Fib patients should pay attention to the warnings for heart patients.

I don’t know of any decongestants that are safe to take when you have A-Fib. One possible exception are those with the active ingredient phenylephrine (e.g. Sudafed PE, Dimetapp and Triaminic.).

Best Advice: Consult your cardiologist or EP for the best option for your stuffy nose or allergies. And ask about interactions with your other heart medications (especially if you have high blood pressure).

We’ve Got Answers: Browse Our Q&As About Drug Therapies and Medicines

The various medications or drugs for treatment of Atrial Fibrillation can be overwhelming. What they are for, how they work and how they might affect you, can be confusing. After reading our page Treatment/Drug Therapies, you may still have unanswered questions (perhaps the same others have asked).

We may be able to address your concerns in our Q&A section, Drug Therapies and Medicines (under FAQ: Living with A-Fib). We provide answers to the most frequent inquiries by patients and their families.

Some of the questions we answer are:

Medicines & Drug Therapies at A-Fib.com

Q&A: Medicines & Drug Therapies

• “Is the “Pill-In-The-Pocket” treatment a cure for A-Fib? When should it be used?”

• “Is there a way to get off blood thinners all together? I hate taking Coumadin. I know I’m at risk of an A-Fib stroke.”

I’m worried about the toxic side effects of amiodarone. What should I do?

 • “What are my chances of getting an A-Fib stroke?

Go to Drug Therapies and Medicines to browse all our questions.

You’ll find more answers to questions about therapy, such as about warfarin and Coumadin, foods with Vitamin K, Electrical Cardioversion, aspirin and stroke prevention, and natural blood thinners.

We invite you to browse through all our categories of answered questions. Go to -> FAQs: Coping with Atrial Fibrillation.

 

In Layman’s Terms: What is Post-Ablation ‘Recurrence’?

“Recurrence” or “Re-connection” is a general term electrophysiologists (EPs) use to describe when A-Fib returns after a successful catheter ablation.

Heart tissue is very tough and resilient. There is a tendency for ablated heart tissue to heal itself, regrow the ablated area, reconnect, and start producing A-Fib signals again.

Illustration: cyroballoon ablation

But if this happens, it usually occurs within approximately the first three to six months of the initial catheter ablation.

This type of recurrence may happen because the heart tissue was not originally ablated properly, the burn lesion may not have been deep enough (transmural).

In practice, there are four basic types of recurrence found primarily when using RF point-by-point ablation…continue reading more about recurrence…

New FAQ: About Qualifying for Disability Benefits

We’ve added a new question and answer in our FAQ category For the Newly Diagnosed Patient:

“Can I get government social security disability benefits if I have Atrial Fibrillation?”

For those in the United States, the general answer is yes, you may quality for benefits. The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) helps people with a disability which makes them unable to support themselves financially. (For readers outside the U.S., check your country’s human services department for more information.)

The Social Security Administration Blue Book lists the disabilities that qualify for benefits. Of interest to patients with Atrial Fibrillation is Sec. 4.05 which lists A-Fib at “Cardiovascular” under “Recurrent Arrhythmias”.

You can qualify for benefits two ways: under a medical disability and/or a medical-vocational allowance.…Continue reading my answer…

FAQ: Updated Answer About A-Fib and Marijuana Use

During the past few years compelling evidence has developed that marijuana has significant effects on the cardiovascular system. Recently, we’ve updated our answer to this question regarding marijuana use by A-Fib patients:

Q: “Is smoking medically prescribed marijuana or using Marinol (prescription form) going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib“?

There isn’t much clinical research on this subject. But due to the increased use of medical marijuana in California and other states, we should soon be getting more data on marijuana’s effects on A-Fib.

Feedback from A-Fib Patients About Marijuana

Recreational Marjuana and A-Fib at A-Fib.com

A-Fib and marijuana

THC and CBD: From speaking to actual marijuana users, the THC component, such as is found in the marijuana plant Stavia, is what makes you feel “high.”

The CBD component, such as is found in the marijuana plant Endica, works better to reduce pain and anxiety and induce sleep.

Best Marijuana Product for A-Fib Patients? Probably the edible forms of marijuana using primarily the CBD component seem to be something that A-Fib patients might want to investigate. Read my full answer->

Personal Experiences: You may want to read the personal experiences of A-Fib patients Jim, John, William, Jonathan and Scott who share how marijuana use has improved or provoked their A-Fib episodes. Read more->

Most Asked Q&As About Coping with the Day-to-Day Issues

Here at A-Fib.com, we have answered thousands of questions from A-Fib patients—many of the same questions you may have. Under Coping with Your A-Fib: Day-to-Day Issues, here are a few of the questions we answered:

1.  Specialist: I like my cardiologist, but he has not talked about me seeing an Electrophysiologist [heart rhythm specialist]. Should I ask for a second opinion?”

2.  Forewarning? Is there any way to predict when I’m going to have an A-Fib attack?”

3.  Exercise: Can I damage my heart if I exercise in A-Fib? Should I exercise when in A-Fib or skip it and rest?”

Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues

Coping with the Day-to-Day Issues at A-Fib.com

Coping with the Day-to-Day Issues

Other questions under Coping with the Day-to-Day Issues address A-FlutterMedical Marijuana, PVC/PACsDIY heart monitors, Hereditary A-Fib and more.

Go to Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues to review all our posted questions, Browse the list and ‘click’ on any question to jump to the answer.

More Categories of Question & Answers

For all our Q & A lists, go to our page Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) by Patients with Atrial Fibrillation.

New FAQ About A-Fib Drug Therapy: Any Guarantee Against Stroke?

The following FAQ is very timely as a close friend of mine just suffered a major stroke, even though she was on Coumadin and her INR was in the correct range. I can’t tell you how discouraging this is, not just for her but for me, too. I worked with her to get the best treatment possible and by one of the best EPs in our area. But she still had a stroke.

Q: “I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?”

A: There is currently no way to absolutely guarantee you will never experience a stroke. “Even when A-Fib patients are effectively anti-coagulated, 14% are still found with clots,” stated Dr. John Camm of St. George’s Medical School, London, England, at the 2008 Boston AF Symposium.

Read more of my answer: how anticoagulants can significantly lower your overall stroke risk by as much as 70%, how closing off your Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) can stop 90%–95% of A-Fib clots which usually originate in the LAA, and whether you should consider combining the Watchman with anti-coagulation… Continue reading… .

FAQ: With A-Fib, Can I Make Sure I Never Have a Stroke?

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Guarantee Against Stroke?

“I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?”

This question is very timely as a close friend of mine just suffered a major stroke, even though she was on Coumadin and her INR was in the correct range. I can’t tell you how discouraging this is, not just for her but for me, too. I worked with her to get the best treatment possible and by one of the best EPs in our area. But she still had a stroke.

There’s No Absolute Guarantee

There is currently no way to absolutely guarantee you will never experience a stroke. “Even when A-Fib patients are effectively anticoagulated, 14% are still found with clots,” stated Dr. John Camm of St. George’s Medical School, London, England, at the 2008 Boston AF Symposium.

Anticoagulants Reduces A-Fib Stroke Risk

Anticoagulants can significantly lower your overall stroke risk. When warfarin was first approved (in 1954 with brand names: Coumadin and Jantoven), it was considered a ‘wonder drug’. It reduced the risk of an A-Fib stroke by as much as 70%―a huge reduction. For the first time, doctors (and patients) had something that would work to significantly lower the risk of an A-Fib stroke.

Caution: Anticoagulants are High Risk Drugs

Be aware that anticoagulants in general are considered high risk medications. They work by causing or increasing bleeding. They aren’t like taking vitamins.

As Thomas J. Moore of the Institute for Safe Medical Practices points out, “Anticoagulant treatment for people with A-Fib ranks as one of the highest risk treatments in older Americans…more than 15% of older patients treated with blood thinners for 1 year have bleeding.”

Nevertheless, for most people, even though anticoagulants are considered high risk meds, they are a welcome trade-off to having an A-Fib stroke.

An Medication Alternative: The Watchman Occlusion Device

The Left Atrial appendage (LAA) is where 90%–95% of A-Fib clots originate. Closing off the LAA is an alternative strategy for people who can’t or don’t want to take anticoagulants. The Watchman Device (Boston Scientific), an occlusion device, is an ingenious method of closing off the LAA. (Other occlusion devices include the Lariat II and AtriClip surgical device.)

Inserting the Watchman is a very low risk procedure which takes as little as 20 minutes. Usually afterwards, the patient doesn’t need to be on an anticoagulant.

Combine the Watchman with an Anticoagulant?

One may wonder: Could combining a Watchman Device with an anticoagulant (to prevent strokes from other parts of your heart) come close to guaranteeing you will never have a stroke?

This treatment strategy is very speculative. I don’t know of any clinical studies on this subject.

However, if you have a Watchman Device installed, you could discuss with your doctor continuing on an anticoagulant as added protection.

Reference for this Article

Return to FAQ Drug Therapies
Last updated: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

 

FAQ: After Ablation—What’s my Chance of Staying A-Fib Free?

There is a tendency for ablated heart tissue to heal itself, regrow the ablated tissue, reconnect, and start producing A-Fib signals again. But if this happens, it usually occurs within the first three to six months of the initial PVA(I).

An A-Fib.com reader sent me this question about recurrence of his A-Fib after a successful ablation:

Illustration of catheter ablation

Illustration of catheter ablation of pulmonary vein

“Since my PVI, I have been A-Fib free with no symptoms for 32 months. What do you think my chances of staying A-Fib free are?”

Regrowth/Reconnection of Ablated Heart Tissue

I think your chances of staying A-Fib free are pretty good.

If your Pulmonary Veins (PV) are well isolated and stay that way, you can’t get A-Fib there again. When the PVs are isolated and disconnected and haven’t reconnected, it seems to be permanent. But it’s too early in the history of PVA(I)s to say this definitively. …read the rest of my answer.

FAQs Coping with A-Fib: Improving Circulation

 FAQs Coping with A-Fib: Circulation

FAQs A-Fib afib“Is there any way I can improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation (poor success rate and risky at my age) or Surgery (even more risky)? I am in Chronic A-Fib. I feel tired and a little light-headed, probably because my atria aren’t pumping properly.”

In theory, yes. In Chronic A-Fib it’s not unusual to feel tired and light-headed. Your atria are fibrillating instead of pumping blood into the ventricles. Blood flow to your brain and other organs is reduced by about 15%-30%. But your ventricles still function by suctioning blood from the atria much like a turkey baster sucks up liquid.

To some extent, you can improve the strength and capacity of your ventricles by exercise, such as by walking on a treadmill or at the shopping mall.

You can also improve the oxygen saturation of your blood by using an Oxygen Concentrator ($500-$1,000). While on a treadmill, for example, you can breath in concentrated oxygen through a cannula (short tubes in your nostrils). You can measure how much oxygen is in your blood by using an pulse oximeter ($50). The desired range is 95-100% oxygen saturation. (Some athletes with good circulation use this technique to improve their athletic performance.)

Don’t dismiss the treatment options of catheter ablation or mini-maze surgery. Both have high success rates with low rates of complication.

Be cautious: While improved circulation is good for your overall health, don’t over do the exercising. It could be counterproductive. With Chronic A-Fib your heart is already working harder than a normal healthy heart. Adding even more demand can lead to more enlargement and remodeling.

The Bottom Line: the real question is whether these techniques will improve your A-Fib symptoms of feeling tired and light-headed. I’m unaware of any studies demonstrating the effectiveness of the above techniques for the symptoms of Chronic A-Fib.

Resources for this article

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017

Back to FAQs: Coping with Your A-Fib

FAQs Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues

FAQs A-Fib afibFAQs Coping With Your Atrial Fibrillation: Day-to-Day Issues

Coping with your Atrial Fibrillation means a patient and their family have many and varied questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about dealing with the day-to-day issues of having Atrial Fibrillation. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)

1.  Specialist: “I like my cardiologist, but he has not talked about me seeing an Electrophysiologist [heart rhythm specialist]. Should I ask for a second opinion?”

2. Forewarning? Is there any way to predict when I’m going to have an A-Fib attack?”

3.  Exercise: Can I damage my heart if I exercise in A-Fib? Should I exercise when in A-Fib or skip it and rest?”

4.  Progression of A-Fib: How long do I have before my A-Fib goes into chronic or permanent A-Fib? I know it’s harder to cure. My A-Fib episodes seem to be getting longer and more frequent.”

5.  A-Flutter:They want to do an Atrial Flutter-only ablation, will that help if I possibly have A-Fib as well?”

6.  Medical Marijuana:Is smoking medical marijuana or using Marinol going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib?

7.  Action Plan: During an A-Fib episode, when should I call paramedics (911 in the US) and/or take my husband to the hospital? I’m petrified. I need a plan.”

Related Question:When my husband has an Atrial Fibrillation episode, what can I do for him? How can I be supportive?”

Related Question: In case I have a stroke, what does my family need to know to help me? (I’m already on a blood thinner.)  What can I do to improve my odds of surviving it?”

8.  PVC/PACs:I have a lot of extra beats and palpitations (PVCs or PACs). They seem to proceed an A-Fib attack. What can or should I do about them?”

9.  DIY Monitors:What kind of monitors are available for atrial fibrillation? Is there any way to tell how often I get A-Fib or how long the episodes last?”

Related Question:My mom is 94 with A-Fib. Are there consumer heart rate monitors she can wear to alert me at work if her heart rate exceeds a certain number?”

10.  Heart Rate:Can I have A-Fib when my heart rate stays between 50-60 BPM? My doctor tells me I have A-Fib, but I don’t always have a rapid heart rate.”

Related Question:  “My doctor says I need a pacemaker because my heart rate is too slow. I’m an athlete with A-Fib and have a naturally slow heart rate.”

11.  Circulation:Can I improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation or Surgery? I’m in Chronic A-Fib. ”

12.  Hereditary A-Fib: Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?”

13.  Treatment choices: “How do I know which is the best A-Fib treatment option for me?”

Related Question:In one of your articles it said that having an ablation was better than living in A-Fib. If your article means all types of A-Fib [including Paroxysmal], then I will consider an ablation.”

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017
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FAQs A-Fib Treatments: Medicines and Drug Therapies

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation patients often search for unbiased information and guidance about medicines and drug therapy treatments. These are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)

1. “ I have a heart condition. Which medications are best to control my Atrial Fibrillation?” What medications work best for me?“

2. HRT: “Do you have information about Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and if it might help or hinder my atrial fibrillation?”

3. Rate Control Drug: “I take atenolol, a beta-blocker. Will it stop my A-Fib.”

Antiarrhythmic Drugs

1. “Is the “Pill-In-The-Pocket” treatment a cure for A-Fib? When should it be used?” (“Pill-In-The-Pocket” makes use of an antiarrhythmic drug such as flecainide)

2. I’ve been on amiodarone for over a year. It works for me and keeps me out of A-Fib. But I’m worried about the toxic side effects. What should I do?”

3. “Is the antiarrhythmic drug Multaq [dronedarone] safer than taking amiodarone? How does it compare to other antiarrhythmic drugs?”

4. “My doctor told me about the Tikosyn drug option that I want to consider in getting rid of my 5-month-old persistent A-Fib. That seems like something that should be discussed on your web site.”

Blood Thinners/Anticoagulants

Note: August 2015 Update: Aspirin is no longer recommended as first-line therapy to prevent A-Fib stroke.

1. “Are anticoagulants and blood thinners the same thing? How do they thin the blood?

2. Should everyone who has A-Fib be on a blood thinner like warfarin (brand name: Coumadin)?”

3. Which is the better to prevent stroke—warfarin (Coumadin), an NOAC or aspirin?

4. “I am on Coumadin (warfarin). Do I now need to avoid foods with Vitamin K which would interfere with its blood thinning effects?”

5. Are natural blood thinners for blood clot treatment as good as prescription blood thinners like warfarin?”

6. “I’m worried about having to take the blood thinner warfarin. If I cut myself, do I risk bleeding to death?

Related question: My new cardiologist wants me to switch from Pradaxa to Eliquis. if bleeding occurs, is Eliquis easier to deal with?

Related question: My heart doctor wants me to take Xarelto. I am concerned about the side effects which can involve death. What else can I do?”

7. “I”ve read about a new anticoagulant, edoxaban (brand names: Lixiana, Savaysa) as an alternative to warfarin (Coumadin). For A-Fib patients, how does it compare to warfarin? Should I consider edoxaban instead of the other NOACs?”

Post-Procedure

1. I’ve had a successful catheter ablation and am no longer in A-Fib. But my doctor says I need to be on a blood thinner. I’ve been told that, even after a successful catheter ablation, I could still have “silent” A-Fib—A-Fib episodes that I’m not aware of. Is there anything I can do to get off of blood thinners?“

2. “I just had an Electrical Cardioversion. My doctor wants me to stay on Coumadin for at least one month. Why is that required? They mentioned something about a “stunned atrium.” What is that?“

A-Fib Stroke Risk

1. “What are my chances of getting an A-Fib stroke?

2. “The A-Fib.com web site claims that an A-Fib stroke is often worse than other causes of stroke. Why is that? If a clot causes a stroke, what difference does it make if it comes from A-Fib or other causes? Isn’t the damage the same?“

3. “How long do I have to be in A-Fib before I develop a clot and have a stroke?

4. “Is there a way to get off blood thinners all together? I hate taking Coumadin. I know I’m at risk of an A-Fib stroke.”

5. “I’ve heard of people with A-Fib on anticoagulants who still had a stroke. What can I do to make sure I never have a stroke?

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Monday, May 8, 2017
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FAQs A-Fib Treatments: Catheter Ablation Procedures

Catheter ablation illustration at A-Fib.com

Catheter ablation

Atrial Fibrillation patients seeking a cure and relief from their symptoms often have many questions about catheter ablation procedures. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer)

1. Heart Function: “Does this burning and scarring during the ablation procedure affect how the heart functions? Should athletes, for example, be concerned that their heart won’t function as well after an ablation?”

Related question: “I’m a life-long runner. I recently got intermittent A-Fib. Does ablation (whether RF or Cryo) affect the heart’s blood pumping output potential because of the destruction of cardiac tissue? And if so, how much? One doc said it does.”

2. Radiation: “How dangerous is the fluoroscopy radiation during an ablation? I know I need a Pulmonary Vein Ablation (Isolation) procedure to stop my A-Fib—A-Fib destroys my life. I’m worried about radiation exposure.”

3. Condition of Heart: “What is an enlarged heart? Does it cause A-Fib? I was told I can’t have a catheter ablation because I have an enlarged heart. Why is that?”

Related question: I have serious heart problems and chronic heart disease along with Atrial Fibrillation. Would a Pulmonary Vein Ablation help me? Should I get one?”

Related question:  I have a defective Mitral Valve. Is it causing my A-Fib? Should I have my Mitral Valve fixed first before I have a PVA?”

4. Age: “I am 82 years old. Am I too old to have a successful Pulmonary Vein Ablation? What doctors or medical centers perform PVAs on patients my age?”

Related question:I’m 80 and have been in Chronic (persistent/permanent) A-Fib for 3 years. I actually feel somewhat better now than when I had occasional (Paroxysmal) A-Fib. Is it worth trying to get an ablation?

5. Blanking Period: “How long before you know a Pulmonary Vein Ablation procedure is a success? I just had a PVA(I). I’ve got bruising on my leg, my chest hurts, and I have a fever at night. I still don’t feel quite right. Is this normal?”

Related question: Since my ablation, my A-Fib feels worse and is more frequent than before, though I do seem to be improving each week. My doctor said I shouldn’t worry, that this is normal. Is my ablation a failure?”

6. O.R. Report: I want to read exactly what was done during my Pulmonary Vein Ablation. Where can I get the specifics? What records are kept?”

7. Procedure Length: “What is the typical length of a catheter ablation today versus when you had your catheter ablation in 1998 in Bordeaux, France? What makes it possible?”

8. Clots/Blood Thinners: “After my successful Pulmonary Vein Ablation, do I still need to be on blood thinners like Coumadin, an NOAC or aspirin?”

Related question:I was told that I will have to take an anticoagulant for about 2-3 months after my ablation. Afterwards shouldn’t there be even less need for a prescription anticoagulant rather than more?”

Related question: During an ablation, how much danger is there of developing a clot? What are the odds? How can these clots be prevented?”

9. Exercise: “I’m having a PVA and I love to exercise. Everything I read says ‘You can resume normal activity in a few days.’ Can I return to what’s ‘normal’ exercise for me?”

10. Non-PV Triggers: “Are there other areas besides the pulmonary veins with the potential to turn into A-Fib hot spots? I had a successful catheter ablation and feel great. Could they eventually be turned on and put me back into A-Fib?

11. Heart Rate: “I’m six months post CryoBalloon ablation and very pleased. But my resting heart rate remains higher in the low 80s. Why? I’ve been told it’s not a problem. I’m 64 and exercise okay, but I’ve had to drop interval training.”

12. The Bordeaux Group: “I’ve heard good things about the French Bordeaux group. Didn’t Prof. Michel Häissaguerre invent catheter ablation for A-Fib? Where can I get more info about them? How much does it cost to go there?”

13. Cure? “I have Chronic Atrial Fibrillation. Am I a candidate for a Pulmonary Vein Ablation? Will it cure me? What are my chances of being cured compared to someone with Paroxysmal (occasional) A-Fib?”

Related question: I’ve read that an ablation only treats A-Fib symptoms, that it isn’t a ‘cure’. If I take meds like flecainide which stop all A-Fib symptoms and have no significant side effects, isn’t that a ‘cure?’”

14. Tech Advances: “I’m getting by with my Atrial Fibrillation. With the recent improvements in Pulmonary Vein ablation techniques, should I wait until a better technique is developed?”

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2017
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FAQs: Does Ablation Treat Symptoms or “Cure” Atrial Fibrillation?

Catheter Ablation

FAQs A-Fib Ablations: Is it a Cure?

“I’ve read that an ablation only treats A-Fib symptoms, that it isn’t a “cure.” If I take meds like flecainide which stop all A-Fib symptoms and have no significant side effects, isn’t that a ‘cure?’”

A successful catheter ablation doesn’t just treat A-Fib symptoms, it physically changes your heart.

Isolates PVs: An ablation closes off the openings around your pulmonary veins (PVs) so A-Fib signals from the Pulmonary Veins (PVs) can no longer get into your heart. It electrically ‘isolates’ your PVs. If successful and permanent, you should be protected from developing A-Fib that originates from your PVs (where most A-Fib originates).

Recurrence Rates: Older research showed that recurrence of A-Fib after an ablation occurred at a 7% rate out to five years. But this was before the use of the newer techniques of Contact Force Sensing catheters and CryoBalloon ablation which make more permanent lesion lines around your Pulmonary Veins.

Also, people with comorbidities, like sleep apnea, obesity, diabetes, hypertension, tend to have more recurrences. Sleep apnea can cause A-Fib to develop in other parts of the heart besides the Pulmonary Veins.

Worst case scenario: But let’s discuss a worst case scenario after a successful catheter ablation. Let’s say that five years later, your A-Fib reoccurs. Usually, all that’s necessary is for a touch-up ablation to fix some gaps in the isolation burns around the openings to the PVs or other spots. It’s usually a much easier, faster procedure than your original ablation. Often, that’s all that’s necessary to keep you A-Fib free.

No Magic Pill for A-Fib: In more than 40% of cases, antiarrhythmic drugs don’t work, cause bad side effects, or lose their effectiveness over time. We don’t currently have a magic pill you can take which will guarantee to forever cure you of A-Fib.

I’m glad that flecainide works for you, but it’s not generally considered a permanent cure for A-Fib.

Catheter Ablation Only Hope of a “Cure”: The bottom line is that catheter ablation (and some surgeries) currently offers the only hope of a permanent cure of A-Fib. That doesn’t mean that all A-Fib ablations are 100% successful. Catheter ablation is a relatively new field where there is still a lot to learn. But catheter ablation is a low-risk procedure with a high rate of success. Right now, it’s the best that medical science has to offer to fix Atrial Fibrillation.

Return to FAQ Catheter Ablations

New FAQ about Asymptomatic Long-Standing Persistent A-Fib

We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer based on an email I received from a fellow with a very challenging case of Long-standing Persistent Atrial Fibrillation:

“I am 69 years old, in permanent A-Fib for 15 years, but non-symptomatic. My left atrium is over 55mm and several cardioversions have failed. My EP won’t even try a catheter ablation. I exercise regularly and have met some self-imposed extreme goals. What more can I do?

My answer: As you may know, being in permanent (long-standing persistent) Atrial Fibrillation can cause other long term problems like fibrosis, increased risks of heart failure and dementia. So you are wise to be concerned.

I’m not surprised your electrophysiologist (EP) is reluctant about performing a catheter ablation. Being asymptomatic with 15 years of long-standing persistent A-Fib and a Left Atrium diameter of 55mm, most EPs wouldn’t recommend or perform a catheter ablation on you.

Tikosyn: generic name dofetilide at A-Fib.com

Tikosyn: (dofetilide)

Drug Therapy Option: Tikosyn

Have you tried the newer antiarrhythmic drug Tikosyn (generic name dofetilide)?

Tikosyn was designed for cases like yours. It’s a Class 1A drug that works by blocking the activity of certain electrical signals in the heart that can cause an irregular heartbeat. Read more of my answer…

FAQs Understanding A-Fib: Options for Asymptomatic Longstanding Persistent A-Fib

 FAQs Understanding A-Fib: Asymptomatic Longstanding Persistent A-Fib

FAQs Understanding Your A-Fib A-Fib.com16. “I am 69 years old, in permanent A-Fib for 15 years, but non-symptomatic. My left atrium is over 55mm, and several cardioversions have failed. My EP won’t even try a catheter ablation. I exercise regularly and have met some self-imposed extreme goals. What more can I do?

As you already know, being in permanent (long-standing persistent) Atrial Fibrillation can cause other long term problems like fibrosis, increased risks of heart failure and dementia. So you are wise to be concerned.

I’m not surprised your electrophysiologist (EP) is reluctant about a catheter ablation. Being asymptomatic with 15 years of long-standing persistent A-Fib and a Left Atrium diameter of 55mm, most EPs wouldn’t recommend or perform a catheter ablation on you.

Drug Therapy Option: Tikosyn

Tikosyn (dofetilide) for long-standing persistent atrial fibrillation at A-Fib.com

Tikosyn (dofetilide)

Have you tried the newer antiarrhythmic drug Tikosyn (generic name dofetilide)?

Tikosyn was designed for cases like yours. It’s a Class 1A drug that works by blocking the activity of certain electrical signals in the heart that can cause an irregular heartbeat.

The only inconvenience of Tikosyn drug therapy is you have to be in a hospital for 3 days for observation and to get the dosage right.

Benefits of Activity and Exercise on Your A-Fib

You are truly blessed to be so active and without noticeable symptoms in spite of being in A-Fib. While exercise will not reduce the size of your LA, your activity level may compensate for the lack of pumping of your left atrium. In fact, your ventricles may be acting kind of like a turkey baster sucking blood down from your non-functioning LA before pushing blood out to the rest of your body.

Catheter Ablation and Surgical Options

Catheter ablation: Studies of non-paroxysmal A-Fib have shown that a successful catheter ablation can significantly reduce atrial dilation and improve ejection fraction. But, with your A-Fib being persistent long-standing, this may not apply.

Surgery: A Cox Maze IV surgery may reduce the volume and size of your left atrium while hopefully making you A-Fib free, but surgeons may be reluctant to tackle your case since the success rate is under 80%. A Cox Radial Maze is open heart surgery which is very traumatic and risky. It may be hard to justify open heart surgery if you’re asymptomatic.

My Recommendations

1. If you haven’t tried it yet, ask your EP about taking the newer antiarrhythmic drug Tikosyn.

2. If you’ve tried Tikosyn and it doesn’t help you, I recommend you consult an EP who specializes in longstanding persistent A-Fib. See Steve’s Lists. You may need to travel, but it may be worth it to you for your peace of mind. Also, ask the EP if surgery may be a helpful option.

3. Based on the results of the EP consult, I’d seek the opinion of a cardiac surgeon who performs the Cox Maze IV surgery. (See Steve’s Lists of surgeons who treat A-Fib patients.)

Making an Informed Choice

Armed with the above information you will be able to determine how you want to proceed. This is a decision only you can make.

With no A-Fib symptoms and a fulfilled life with plenty of body and soul enriching exercise, you may decide you are content with your present A-Fib status.

Resources for this article

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017‘
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Go back to FAQ Understanding A-Fib

New FAQ: Does Ablation Reduce Heart’s Pumping Volume?

Our new Frequently Asked Questions & Answers (FAQs) is about the heart’s blood pumping capacity after an ablation.

“I’m a life-long runner. I recently got intermittent A-Fib. Does ablation (whether RF or Cryo) affect the heart’s blood pumping output potential because of the destruction of cardiac tissue? And if so, how much? One doc said it does.”

As a fellow runner, I understand your concern on how an ablation might affect your ability to resume your athletic activities.

Lesions at PVs openings

Seek Your Cure: Keep in mind, with Atrial Fibrillation you lose 15% to 30% of your heart’s normal pumping volume along with lower oxygen levels. Your body and brain aren’t getting the blood and nourishment they need. An catheter ablation is an important way to improve or restore your heart’s pumping volume.

PVAI - Ccommon lesion set at A-Fib.com

More extensive lesions pattern

Ablate as Little Tissue as Possible: A common ablation technique for paroxysmal A-Fib (using RF or Cryo), ablates only around the opening of each Pulmonary Vein (PV) and isn’t likely to affect the heart’s output.

On the other hand, more extensive lesion patterns affecting more tissue may affect the heart’s output. For example, during a PV Wide Area Antrum Ablation, instead of just ablating around each of the PV openings, large, oval lesions are made in the left atrium encircling both the upper and lower vein openings.

My Best Advice to Runners with Atrial Fibrillation

For a runner, a more extensive ablation of the left atrium may affect heart output more than circular lesions of each vein opening. …Continue reading my answer…

FAQs A-Fib Ablations: A Runner’s Heart After Ablation

 FAQs A-Fib Ablations: A Runner’s Heart 

Catheter ablation illustration at A-Fib.com

Catheter ablation

“I’m a life-long runner. I recently got intermittent A-Fib. Does ablation (whether RF or Cryo) affect the heart’s blood pumping output potential because of the destruction of cardiac tissue? And if so, how much? One doc said it does.”

As a fellow runner, I understand your concern on how an ablation might affect your ability to resume your athletic activities.

Seek Your Cure: Keep in mind, with Atrial Fibrillation you lose 15% to 30% of your heart’s normal pumping volume along with lower oxygen levels. Your body and brain aren’t getting the blood and nourishment they need. An catheter ablation is an important way to improve or restore your heart’s pumping volume.

Catheter Ablation Lesions around PV openings at A-Fib.com

Lesions around PV openings

Ablate as Little Tissue as Possible: A common ablation technique for paroxysmal A-Fib (using RF or Cryo), ablates only around the opening of each Pulmonary Vein (PV) and isn’t likely to affect the heart’s output.

On the other hand, more extensive lesion patterns affecting more tissue may affect the heart’s output. For example, during a PV Wide Area Antrum Ablation, instead of just ablating around each of the PV openings, large, oval lesions are made in the left atrium encircling both the upper and lower vein openings.

PVAI - Ccommon lesion set at A-Fib.com

More extensive lesion pattern

(This is intuitive on my part; we don’t have clinical studies confirming any effect or difference between the two approaches in terms of heart output and atrium function.)

For a runner, the more extensive ablation of the left atrium may affect heart output. Less active patients may not notice the difference, but a runner like you may.

My Best Advice to Runners with Atrial Fibrillation

Seek out the Best EPs: Select the most experienced Electrophysiologists (EPs) you can afford (and travel if you need to). Discuss catheter ablation and your concerns about decreased heart output after ablation. A good EP will make as few lesions during your ablation as possible.

Paroxysmal A-Fib Easiest to Ablate: At the moment you have “paroxysmal A-Fib of recent onset” and it’s usually the easiest to fix. It’s likely you will not need an extensive ablation. (Though one never knows till the actual ablation; Read what Travis Van Slooten wrote about how his “easy case” turned into a complex, extensive ablation.)

Ablate ASAP: Get your ablation as reasonably soon as possible, before your A-Fib has a chance to get worse and requires a more extensive ablation.

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder. at A-Fib.com

Keep A-Fib records in a binder or folder.

Monitor Progress of your A-Fib: A-Fib is a progressive disease. You should track if your heart’s measurements are getting better or worse, and by how much. Ask your doctor for the measurements of heart dimensions and its functions including the diameter and volume of the left atrium, your Ejection Fraction (EF) and any other test results.

Store all your test results and measurements in your A-Fib three-ring binder or file folder.

What Patients’ Need to Know: A progressively enlarging heart and a falling EF percentage (below 35%) means your A-Fib is worsening. To preserve your heart’s best functions, seek an ablation before your A-Fib worsens.

As a runner, even if your heart is somewhat enlarged and your EF has decreased, a successful catheter ablation may not only end your A-Fib and improve your Ejection Fraction but over time may even reduce your enlarged left atrium.

Thanks to Joe O’Flaherty for this question.

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Last updated: Thursday, February 9, 2017

Return to FAQ Catheter Ablation and Maze Surgeries

New FAQ Answered: Which Procedure Has the Best Success Rate?

We’ve answered a new FAQ under the category: Understanding Atrial Fibrillation. Thanks to Thomas Scheben for this question:

I have paroxysmal A-Fib and would like to know your opinion on which procedure has the best cure rate.

The best cure rate isn’t the only criteria you should consider when seeking your Atrial Fibrillation cure. Let me first review your top three procedure options: cardioversion, catheter ablation, and surgical Maze/Mini-Maze. 

Atrial Fibrillation is not a one-size fits all type of disease.

Electrocardioversion: When first diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, doctors often recommend an Electrocardioversion to get you back into normal sinus rhythm. But for most patients, their A-Fib returns within a week to a month. (However, you might be lucky like the A-Fib patient who wrote us that he was A-Fib free for 7 years after a successful cardioversion.)

Catheter Ablations: Radio-frequency and CryoBalloon catheter ablations have similar success rates 70%-85% for the first ablation, around 90% is you need a second ablation.

How to achieve these high success rates? It’s crucial you choose the right electrophysiologist (EP)…Continue to read my full answer.

FAQs Understanding A-Fib: Which Procedure Has the Best Cure Rates

 FAQs Understanding A-Fib: Best Cure Rate

FAQs Understanding Your A-Fib A-Fib.com15. “I have paroxysmal A-Fib and would like to know your opinion on which procedure has the best cure rate.”

The best cure rate isn’t the only criteria you should consider when seeking your Atrial Fibrillation cure.

Let me first review your top three procedure options: cardioversion, catheter ablation, and surgical Maze/Mini-Maze.

Electrocardioversion: When first diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, doctors often recommend an Electrocardioversion to get you back into normal sinus rhythm. But for most patients, their A-Fib returns within a week to a month. (However, you might be lucky like the A-Fib patient who wrote us that he was A-Fib free for 7 years after a successful cardioversion.)

Catheter Ablations: Radio-frequency and CryoBalloon catheter ablations have similar success rates 70%-85% for the first ablation, around 90% is you need a second ablation. Currently, CryoBalloon ablation has a slightly better cure rate with the least recurrence.

It’s crucial you choose the right electrophysiologist (EP), one with a high success rate and the best you can afford.

How to achieve these high success rates? It’s crucial you choose the right electrophysiologist (EP), one with a high success rate and the best you can afford (considering cost and travel expense). What counts is the EP’s skill and experience.

You want an EP who not only ablates your pulmonary veins, but will also look for, map and ablate non-pulmonary vein (PV) triggers. That may require advanced techniques like withdrawing the CryoBalloon catheter and replacing it with an RF catheter to ablate the non-PV triggers. (See our Choosing the Right Doctor: 7 Questions You’ve Got to Ask [And What the Answers Mean].) 

Cox Maze and Mini-Maze surgeries: Success rates are similar to catheter ablation, 75%–90%. But surgery isn’t recommended as a first choice or option by current A-Fib treatment guidelines. Compared to catheter ablations, the maze surgeries are more invasive, traumatic, risky and with longer (in hospital) recovery times

When should you consider the Maze/Mini-Maze? The primary reasons to consider a Maze surgery is because you can’t have a catheter ablation (ex: can’t take blood thinners), you’ve had several failed ablations, or if you are morbidly obese.

Atrial Fibrillation is not a one-size fits all type of disease.

You should also consider that Mini-Maze surgeries have built in limitations. For example, unlike catheter ablations, mini-maze surgery currently can’t reach the right atrium, or other areas of the heart where A-Fib signals may originate (non-PV locations). The more extensive surgeries create a great deal of lesions burns on the heart which may impact heart function.

So How Do You Choose the Best Treatment For You?

Atrial Fibrillation is not a one-size fits all type of disease.

Your first step is to see a heart rhythm specialist, a cardiac electrophysiologist (EP), who specializes in the electrical function of the heart.

An EP will work with you to consider the best treatment options for you. If your best treatment option is surgical, your EP will refer you to a surgeon and continue to manage your care after your surgery.

To help you find the right EP for you, see Finding the Right Doctor for You and Your A-Fib.

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If you find any errors on this page, email us. Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017

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