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



Drug Therapies

Now A-Fib Free: A 23-Year Atrial Fibrillation Ordeal, Trial, Tribulations and Recovery

By Charn Deol, Richmond, British Columbia, Canada, May 2017
Personal A-Fib story by Charn Deol, BC, Canada at A-Fib.com

Charn Deol, B.C., Canada

My medical issues with atrial fibrillation started when I was 43 in August of 1993 when I was aware of having a few skipped heartbeats. I had just returned to Canada having been working extensively for the last few years in Southeast Asia. About a week later, the irregular heart beating got worse in duration.

At the same time, a dull aching pain started in the left chest region the size of a 50-cent piece.

A-Fib Drugs Don’t Work, Chest Pain Condition Worse

Upon being sent to a heart specialist in September 1993, numerous drugs were prescribed to keep my heart in rhythm (digoxin, flecainide, sotalol). They did not work, some had serious side effects, and every few days I would go into atrial fibrillation.

The atrial fibrillation happened once or twice per week and lasted from a few hours to 24 hours. Then it would stop on its own, and the heart would go into normal sinus rhythm.

Second medical condition: At the same time, the very centered pain in the upper left chest area kept getting worse and added to the debilitation of daily life. These medical conditions started my long journey to find relief (cure) from two medical conditions that were not being controlled or cured by conventional medical treatments.

Alternative Healthcare Practitioners―India & China, Too

In my search for a cure(s), I met a family practitioner and other medical and alternative specialists who used treatment protocols that could be labeled ‘experimental’ or ‘out of the box’, as they say.

I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

While discovering alternative medical treatments in 1994, I also went to India for Ayurvedic treatment [one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems] and even to China for treatment. Most alternative (non-allopathic) medical practitioners look at the body as an interconnected processing unit and believed in my case that the pain in the left chest and the atrial fibrillation were connected. This was not the thinking of the allopathic doctors, so I was all mixed up as to what was going on in my body. This can be psychologically very distressing if you do not have a strong family/friend support network.

Having been to a multitude of healthcare practitioners, numerous chiropractors, massage therapists and other more esoteric healthcare practitioners (100s over the 23 years), there was no resolution to my medical condition.

Encainide Drug Therapy: Up and Out

The heart specialist that gave me sotalol [an antiarrhythmic drug] in 1995 gave me a dose that dropped the heartbeat to 30 beats per minute putting me into the emergency room, but the drug had no effect on my atrial fibrillation.

In 1996 seeing my third cardiologist, I was put on a drug called encainide [also an antiarrhythmic drug], to be used on an as needed basis [pill-in-the-pocket].  It worked and would stop my atrial fibrillation in approximately 20 minutes.

But it had no effect on the chest pain which was getting worse now with a pain spot in the left shoulder blade area also the size of a 50-cent piece having started out of nowhere.

Encainide is a class Ic antiarrhythmic agent. It is no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic side effects.

About 6 months after starting on the encainide, one of my friend’s son with a heart condition since childhood passed away. And I was told he had just been started on a new drug for him called “encainide” along with “sotalol”. The same cardiologist had been providing this drug free of charge to me, so I was pleased that it worked for me and cost me nothing.

The problem I found out was that it was illegal for the cardiologist to prescribe this drug because it had killed too many people. When he got caught, then encainide was no longer available. (Encainide is a class 1C antiarrhythmic drug no longer used because of its frequent proarrhythmic effects.)

Chelation for Very High Levels of Mercury

I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients.

While all the above was going on, I was tested for heavy metals through urine analysis. It was discovered that I had the highest level of mercury ever seen by the lab in any of their patients (7400 nmol/dl). So I started protocols to take the mercury out of my body using chelation treatments with EDTA and then DMPS and DMSA (metal chelators).

At the same time, my other medical practitioners had me on oral and IV multivitamins and mineral protocols.

Mercury Cleared, Atrial Fibrillation Stops!

By 2000, the mercury was finally out of my system and my atrial fibrillation stopped! It is known mercury can concentrate in nerve tissue. While only a correlative relationship―mercury out of system―my atrial fibrillation did stop.

Chest Pain Condition Worse than Ever

From 2000 to 2010 I had NO atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse.

From 2000 to 2010 I had no atrial fibrillation. But the chest pain condition did not stop, and it got worse extending into my gut region. All medical protocols tried could not alleviate this pain, nor was any etiology discovered as to what was the underlying cause of the pain condition.

Thanks to my resiliency, I was still able to go hiking, skiing, travel and work part-time on my own schedule. But it took great perseverance.

After 10 Years A-Fib Returns―and Heavy Levels of Lead (This Time)!

In 2010, while starting a hike, the atrial fibrillation began again. The A-Fib would last 6-8 hours and occur an average of 2 times per week.

I was immediately tested for heavy metals again, and this time I had high levels of lead, not mercury. Even with thorough investigations of potential sources for this lead contamination in my body, no source was discovered. We worked (and continue to work) on getting these lead levels down (I had no high lead levels back in the 1990’s when tested―only mercury).

Amiodarone Bad Side Effects

I again began doing alternative treatments to deal with the atrial fibrillation and the pain condition, nothing worked. I went to China again for treatments, IV EDTA infusions again, etc., but the pain persisted at high levels and the atrial fibrillation kept getting worse.

A new cardiologist put me on a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

In 2012, I saw a new cardiologist who put me on flecainide again. And when it did not work, he provided me with a new drug called amiodarone. This drug lead to paranoia and left me with an epididymitis in my right testicle which I suffer from to this day. (Epididymitis is inflammation of the tube at the back of the testicle that stores and carries sperm.) He had no compassion for my dilemma. This is another cardiologist I dropped.

Ablation in Vancouver, B.C. Fails―A-Fib Worse and More Chest Pain

By late 2014, the atrial fibrillation was occurring on average every second day and lasting 24-38 hours.  My next cardiologist sent me to the Atrial Fibrillation clinic in Vancouver where I was evaluated by an electrophysiologist. The A-Fib was very debilitating, so I was ready for surgery.

VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected

WATCH A VIDEO: Catheter Ablation For A-Fib: What it is, How it’s Done and What Results Can Be Expected (4:15)

I asked for the most experienced electrophysiologist at the clinic to do the surgery. I waited an extra 3 months for the surgery because this highly qualified electrophysiologist was in so much demand.

Finally, in November 2015 I had the ablation therapy (it took approximately 2.5 hours). I came out of the surgery worse than ever. The atrial fibrillation did not stop, and the pain was worse than ever in my left chest, left shoulder-blade and gut regions.

AV Node Ablation & Pacemaker?―No! No! No!

The electrophysiologist wanted to wait for the 6 month recuperation period after the ablation therapy to see if I would go into regular sinus rhythm. By September 2016 (9 months later), I was worse than ever. In November, I saw my electrophysiologist under the impression that he would do another ablation treatment, since I was told and with my own research had confirmed that ablation treatments may be required for up to four times for the treatment to work.

This “top” electrophysiologist recommended I have a pacemaker put in and the AV node be ablated instead, so that the pacemaker could take over the regular beating of the heart. I asked the electrophysiologist why not do further ablation treatments as per the standard practice. He said if that is what I wanted, he would do another ablation. This was quite disconcerting―I am relying on his extensive knowledge to help me in a field where I am no expert. We agreed to set up a surgical date for a second ablation on December 12, 2016.

My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital.

Upon leaving the office and arriving home, I informed my wife of the unpleasant appointment I had with the electrophysiologist, especially his lackadaisical attitude towards my serious heart condition. As a patient, the relationship is somewhat like that of a child with a parent. The patient is naïve, scared, distraught and looking for a path of reassurance from the medical profession. This was not the case in this situation.

This is when “gut instincts” come into play. My gut said to ‘no longer trust’ this supposed best electrophysiologist at the hospital and search for an alternative path. (And I canceled my December 12, 2016 scheduled ablation.)

Counseling with Steve Ryan

Having been a reader of Steve Ryan’s website, I reached out to him and agreed for him to become my advocate and provide me with advice on how to deal with my current concerns over either going along with having a pacemaker placed in my chest along with ablation of the AV node OR to try a second ablation. Steve recommended a second ablation and the Bordeaux Clinic―it was too early to place a pacemaker/ablate the AV node at this stage.

Following this detailed discussion with Steve, I spoke with my wife and got a hold of the Bordeaux Clinic in France on December 2, 2016. With some back and forth email communication, ablation therapy was arranged for December 12, 2016. Somehow with luck and quick action, my wife and I were on an airplane to France and arrived in Bordeaux on December 10.

Second Ablation in Bordeaux and Use of CardioInsight Vest

The surgery on December 12 was done by Prof. Mélèze Hocini. Instead of taking the standard time of 2.5 to 3 hours for the surgery, it took well over 6 hours until approximately 4 pm. Dr Hocini was on her feet and exhausted.

My surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter.

I was informed the next day that my surgery was much more complicated than envisioned, and there were many areas that had to be ablated not only for the atrial fibrillation but also for atrial flutter. It appeared the “top” specialist I had used in Vancouver had not done his job properly. (Remember that I had been worse for the year after my first ablation).

Dr. Hocini was able to see the numerous sites leading to the atrial fibrillation/flutter in my heart due to an advanced computer assisted mapping vest (CardioInsight) which helps the electrophysiologist see in more detail cells in the heart that are acting erratically.  This system is just starting to be used in the U.S. by a few doctors. (See Bordeaux ECGI CardioInsight)

Successful Ablation—No A-Fib, But Chest Pain Condition Continues

I felt great the day after the surgery, no atrial fibrillation or flutter. Pain syndrome still there. I remained in the hospital for 4 more days and all went well, and then stayed in France for 7 more days sightseeing. No problems. I was to continue on Xarelto to keep the blood thin [for risk of stroke].

At Home A-Fib Returns with Persistent A-Flutter

Upon arriving back in Canada, the atrial fibrillation and flutter returned. Dr Hocini recommended cardioversion which I did twice but I still ended up in persistent atrial flutter with a heartbeat in the 130 range but no longer irregular.

Another cardioversion with sotalol converted my heart beat to sinus rhythm. I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017.

Beta Blockers were tried to lower the heartbeat for a few weeks which did not work. Dr. Hocini recommended another cardioversion with sotalol prescribed for after the cardioversion. This was done on February 17, 2017. The heartbeat converted to sinus rhythm (65 heartbeat and was regular).

Normal Sinus Rhythm―4+ Months So Far

I have now remained in rhythm since February 17, 2017 with a quick flutter occurring once in a while. Since I am sensitive to prescription medications, I was placed on a low dose of 40 mg sotalol 2 times per day.

Minerals, Vitamin IVs for Inflammation of the Heart

With my other medical practitioners, I also had mineral and vitamin IVs during this time to help alleviate the inflammation in my heart from the surgery. I also took (and continue to take) vitamins and supplements as recommended by the other medical professionals treating me to keep the inflammation in the heart down.

Dr. Hocini had stated that since my ablation surgery was so complicated, I might have to go back to Bordeaux for another ablation. I have to get through the recommended 6 month recuperation time frame to see if the surgery has been successful. The last 3 months have me heading in the right direction of recovery.

Lessons Learned: After 23 Years with A-Fib

From this experience I’ve learned to obtain as much knowledge as possible of your condition. Trust your gut feelings if you feel uncomfortable with your surgeon. Increase your intake of nutritious foods and supplements prior to and after the surgery. Steve Ryan’s website provided me with the knowledge to make educated decisions.

If you have the funds and/or a complicated atrial fibrillation situation, please find the best surgeon you can and then still question him/her. Get a second [or third] opinion if your gut tells you to.

Doctors are just human beings with positive and negative traits like the rest of us. My first surgeon did not do his job properly in my first ablation and was flippant in his attitude in recommending a second surgical treatment.

With luck, trusting my gut instinct, educating myself, and a great family support system, I was able to find the best clinic in the world to treat me for this very debilitating medical condition.

I welcome your email if I can be of help to you.

Charn Deol, May 2017
charnee@gmail.com

P.S. FYI: My chest pain problem persists and goes undiagnosed, but that’s a story for another website!

Editor’s Comments:
Three month ‘blanking’ period: Charn’s A-Fib returned after his successful second ablation. This is quite common in more difficult cases. Your heart is ‘learning’ to beat normally again. That’s why doctors wait for at least three months before declaring your ablation a success. In Charn’s case, during the first two months, a couple rounds of cardioversions were followed by a third with sotalol prescribed after the cardioversion. This worked to get his heart back into and stay in normal sinus rhythm (NSR).
Be a proactive patient: Charn’s story is truly inspiring and an example of being proactive and not giving up. Do research yourself, get advice, and check out alternatives! We’ve been conditioned to trust doctors. Sometimes we just have to say “NO! That doesn’t make sense to me”. It’s okay to fire your doctor!
I told Charn an AV Node ablation is a treatment of last resort; it destroys the AV Node, the heart’s natural pacemaker. There’s no going back and you are forever pacemaker dependent.
Instead, I advised Charn to seek a second ablation and supplied him a list of Master EPs who routinely treat difficult, complex cases. Kudos to him for deciding to go to the Bordeaux group, considered the best in the world. [For more about Bordeaux, see my article, ‘2016 Cost of Ablation by Bordeaux Group (It’s Less Than You Might Think)’].
Chelation therapy: Chelation is FDA approved for lead removal and is the preferred medical treatment for metal poisoning. But few doctors perform chelation therapy or provide heavy metal testing. To find a doctor for these therapies, go to: http://www.acam.org. (They also do IV therapy for vitamin C and other vitamins and minerals which seems to have helped Charn.)
Amiodarone drug therapy: Amiodarone is considered the most effective of the antiarrhythmic drugs, but it’s also the most toxic and is notorious for bad side effects, including death. It’s generally prescribed only for short periods of time such as for a few months after a catheter ablation and under very close supervision. (For more about Amiodarone, see my article, ‘Amiodarone: Most Effective and Most Toxic‘.

Read our 12-page free report.

Charn’s second ablation Operating Report: Charn’s ablation was more difficult than most. He had been in A-Fib off and on for 23 years. In addition to having to work around a previous failed ablation, Dr. Hocini had to track down and ablate many non-PV triggers. Using the CardioInsight system, Dr. Hocini found A-Fib sources in the septum and in the anterior Left Atrium (LA) region, and his left and right inferior PVs had to be re-isolated.
But Dr. Hocini didn’t stop there. Using pacing again, Dr. Hocini found peri-mitral flutter in Charn’s left atrium which terminated by completing an anterior mitral line and required high energy because of the thickness of his heart tissue. Dr. Hocini had to work on Charn for six hours to the point of exhaustion.
Charn’s chest pain continues: Charn’s debilitating chest pain seemed to start when he first developed A-Fib. I’m disappointed that being A-Fib-free didn’t get rid of the pain he still experiences. I’ve never heard of pain like this coming from A-Fib. Charn has seen many doctors and tried alternative strategies to no avail.
If anyone has any ideas, strategies, or insights to help Charn’s pain, please email me.

 

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

 

NOAC or Warfarin for Valvular A-Fib?

Patients with ‘Valvular Atrial Fibrillation’ are often restricted from most A-Fib clinical studies and research. In particular, for NOAC trials, people with Valvular A-Fib have generally been excluded because they may have a higher rate of forming clots (e.g.: left atrial clots). 

“Valvular Atrial Fibrillation” refers to those A-Fib patients with artificial heart valves or mitral stenosis.

Like most A-Fib patients, Valvular A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic or mechanical valves have to be on an anticoagulant which up to now was restricted to warfarin. So, are the new NOACs an option?

Bioprosthetic valves are non-synthetic (usually porcine) devices used to replace a defective heart valve. Compared to mechanical valves, bioprosthetic valves are less likely to cause clots, but are more prone to structural degeneration (35% fail within 15 years).

Warfarin vs Edoxaban (NOAC)

A 2017 study showed that the Novel Oral Anticoagulant (NOAC) edoxaban (brand name: Savaysa) was safer than warfarin in preventing an A-Fib stroke in people with bioprosthetic heart valves.

Edoxaban 30 and 60 mg (Savaysa)

Edoxaban works by inhibiting factor Xa in the coagulation process. The lower dose (30 mg) was associated with a reduced rate of major bleeding, but not the higher dose (60 mg).

Compared to warfarin, edoxaban was associated with lower annual stroke rates, systemic embolic events, major bleeds, and deaths annually.

“Our analysis suggests that edoxaban appears to be a reasonable alternative to warfarin in patients with Afib and remote bioprosthetic valve implantation,” according to Dr. Robert P. Giugliano of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Edoxaban Works With Bioprosthetic Valves But Not Mechanical Ones

For the first time, research indicates that a NOAC (edoxaban) can be used for Valvular A-Fib to prevent an A-Fib stroke―but only in the case of bioprosthetic (porcine) valves.

The NOAC, Edoxaban (Savaysa), was safer than warfarin for A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic valves.

With regards to mechanical valves, the authors cited a study in which dabigatran (Pradaxa) fared poorly in mechanical valves.

What About Other Factor Xa NOACs?

What about the other ‘factor Xa inhibitors’ such as Xarelto and Eliquis? Can they be used like edoxaban? Currently there is little clinical data on this subject. But since all three are factor Xa inhibitors, most likely they will be proven to be effective in A-Fib patients with bioprosthetic valves.

What Patients Need to Know

Do you have Valvular A-Fib and a bioprosthetic valve? Are you on warfarin? If being on warfarin is difficult for you, you now have a choice of anticoagulant. Ask your doctor about switching to the NOAC, edoxaban.

Reference for this Article

Video: When Drug Therapy Fails: Why Patients Consider Catheter Ablation

For Insidermedicine.com. Dr. Susan M. Sharma discusses why patients with atrial fibrillation turn to ablation when drug therapy doesn’t work. Presenting research findings by David J. Wilber and MD; Carlo Pappone, MD, Dr. Sharma discusses the success rates of drug therapy versus catheter ablation. (See transcript below.) (3:00 min.) Published Jan. 26, 2010 on Insidermedicine.com.

 

Transcript of this video
Research Reference for this Video

If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Sunday, February 19, 2017

Return to Instructional A-Fib Videos and Animations

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
Return to Frequently Asked Questions

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

Book Review: Bad Pharma—How Drug Companies Mislead Doctors & Harm Patients

Bad Pharma by Ben GoldacreThe author of Bad Pharma does an excellent job of shining a light on the truths that the drug industry wants to stay hidden.

Those truths include how they mislead doctors and the medical industry through sales techniques, and manipulate consumers into becoming life-long drug customers. (For doctors, that industry influence begins in medical school and continues throughout their practice.)

We also learn truths about the internal workings of the medical academia, the U.S. FDA, and medical journals publishing.

The arguments in the book are supported by research and data made available to the reader. The author, Ben Goldacre, is a doctor and science journalist, and advocates for sticking to the scientific method, full disclosure and advocating for the interest of the patients. Here are a few highlights from Bad Pharma.

Manipulating Clinical Drug Trials

As consumers, how do we really know which drugs are best? The U.S. FDA protects us, right? Well sort of. Read how trials for drugs and their perceived usefulness can be manipulated, poor trials go unpublished or outright suppressed, and underperforming trials are stopped early or the trial period extended.

One way to manipulate clinical trials starts at the beginning―the design of the trial. Often, few comparison studies are done. Far more common are new drug studies going against placebo pills (that everyone knows don’t work). This helps inflate findings, makes new drugs look more effective than older drugs―because they were never compared against each other.

Bad Pharma & the Cost of Doing Business

Learn how pharmaceutical companies legitimately funnel $10 million to $20 million a year to major medical journals including the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the American Medical Association. So, are we surprised then that studies funded by the pharmaceutical industry are much more likely to get published by these influential journals?

Direct to Consumer Drug Advertising

Did you know drug companies spend twice as much on marketing and advertising as on researching and developing new drugs? (I was shocked.)

To learn how medication advertisements on TV can be misleading to consumers, see my review of “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics” by Steven Woloshin.

Of special interest to me is the ‘Direct to Consumer’ drug advertising which has significantly increased drug sales in the U.S. ‘Direct to Consumer’ drug advertising is so misleading that it is banned in all countries except two: the U.S. and New Zealand. (No wonder that 70% of drug companies’ profit comes from the U.S.)

To be specific, I hate those misleading TV commercials that target A-Fib patients. What these ads for anticoagulants don’t tell you is:

• You are on their meds for life! (they want lifelong customers!)
• These meds do nothing to treat your A-Fib (only your risk of stroke)
• A-Fib can be cured (you don’t have to be on meds for the rest of your life)

These ads for anticoagulant medications imply if you just take their pill once a day, you’ve taken care of your A-Fib. Wrong!

Well Written, Easy to Understand

Bad Pharma, is written in an easy-to-understand manner (you don’t need a medical or science degree). If you wish, you can skim through the book to get an overview, then stop and read a topic of interest. Or you can dig in for a full read, including the authors’s research and other references (documented in footnotes with citations.)

Check on Your Doctor

After reading how big Pharma may be influencing your doctor, you can now find out. In the U.S., with the passing of the Sunshine Act (part of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), we can now research if a doctor has received pharma money to prescribe their products. Just go to the Open Payments or Dollars for Doctors website.

One of our tenets at A-Fib.com, is ‘Educate Yourself’! If you want to be a more savvy consumer of health care services, I highly recommend Bad Pharma. I also recommend Ben Goldacre’s other book, Bad Science.

Bonus Idea: If you pair this book with “Know Your Chances: Understanding Health Statistics” by Steven Woloshin, you’ll have a complete course on how the drug industry skillfully markets their products.

 

My Top 5 Articles About Warfarin Therapy, Associated Risks and Alternatives

my-top-5-picks-stamp-warfarin-400-pix-sq-at-96-res

Any treatment plan for Atrial Fibrillation must address the increased risk of clots and stroke. By far the most commonly used medicine for stroke prevention is the anticoagulant warfarin (brand name Coumadin).

But warfarin is a tough drug to take long term with monthly blood tests and possible side effects. These are my top 5 articles to help you understand warfarin therapy, the associated risks and some of the alternatives.

Review these articles to learn more about Warfarin therapy:

1. Clinical Trials Results: Watchman Better Than a Lifetime on Warfarin;

2. Arterial Calcification From Warfarin: Vitamin K May Reverse it;

3. “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.”;

4. How to Avoid the Bleeding Risk of Anticoagulants;

5. If Sixty and Older: 99% Have Microbleeds—So Are Anticoagulants Risky?

Bonus: Video about Warfarin

A-Fib.com video libraryLiving with Warfarin: Patient Education
Excellent introduction to anticoagulant therapy with warfarin (Coumadin). Patients and medical professionals (clinical nurse, doctors, a pharmacist  and clinical dietician) discuss the practical issues associated with taking warfarin. (16:22) Uploaded on Mar 7, 2011. Produced by Johns Hopkins Medicine.

An Alternative to Blood Thinners

WATCHMAN device at A-Fib.com

The WATCHMAN device

Do you hate having to take Coumadin? Hate the monthly testing? Bothered by side effects? An alternative to taking blood thinners is closing off your Left Atrial Appendage (LAA) with the Watchman, an occlusion device. Learn more: The Watchman™ Device: The Alternative to Blood Thinners.

Don’t Just Manage Your A-Fib with Meds. Seek your Cure!

Daniel Doane, A-Fib free after Mini-Maze surgery, from Sonora, California. - A-Fib.com

Daniel Doane, Sonora, CA, A-Fib free after Mini-Maze surgery,

Don’t Expect Miracles from Current Medications

Antiarrhythmic drugs are only effective for about 40% of patients. Many patients can’t tolerate the bad side effects. When drugs do work, over time, the they become less effective or stop working. According to Drs. Savelieva and Camm:

“The plethora of antiarrhythmic drugs currently available for the treatment of A-Fib is a reflection that none is wholly satisfactory, each having limited efficacy combined with poor safety and tolerability.”

Drugs don’t cure A-Fib but merely keep it at bay.

Learn All Your Treatment Options

To start, educate yourself about Atrial Fibrillation and review all your treatment options on our page: Treatments for Atrial Fibrillation.

Next, move on to the guidelines we’ve posted: Which of the A-Fib Treatment Options is Best for Me? Then, discuss these treatment options with your doctor. This should be a ‘team effort’, a decision you and your doctor will make together.

Don’t just manage your A-Fib. Seek your Cure.

Reference for this article

Don’t Take Any Medication Without Asking These 10 Questions

Before taking any prescription drug to treat your Atrial Fibrillation, you should educate yourself about the drug. We’ve prepared the top 10 questions you should ask your doctor. As a service to our readers, we offer the questions as a free PDF worksheet you can Download. It has convenient spaces to write down your doctor’s replies for later review.

Print as many as you need and take a copy to every doctor appointment (you never know when you’ll need one). Download our worksheet (and don’t forget to save to your hard drive).

Before Starting a Prescription Drug, Ask These Questions

Use our worksheet as a guide as you ask these questions of your doctor or healthcare professional, and note their responses:

Download our Free Worksheet

1. Why am I being prescribed this medication?
2. What are the side effects of this drug?
3. Are there any precautions or special dietary instructions I should follow?
4. Can it interfere with my other medications?
5. What should I do if I forget a dose?
6. How long before I know if this drug is working?
7. How will I be monitored on this drug? How often?
8. What happens if this drug doesn’t work?
9. What if my A-Fib symptoms become worse?
10. If I don’t respond to medications, will you consider non-pharmaceutical treatments (such as a Pulmonary Vein Isolation procedure)?

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

Keep your medical records in a binder or folder.

Your A-Fib Binder or Folder

When completed, file the worksheet in your A-Fib binder or file folder to use for future reference and follow-up.

Your A-Fib binder is where you should file and organize all your A-Fib-related treatment information: printouts of information from the internet and your local public library or medical center library, notes from phone calls with doctors’ offices, and answers to “interview” questions during doctor consultations.

Research Any Prescription Drug 

To determine if the prescription is the right one for you, do your research. An excellent prescription database is the U.S. National Library of Medicine Drug Information Portal. (For an example, see the page on Warfarin [Coumadin].)

Also see the free worksheet: Keep an Inventory List of Your Medications


Worksheet from Chapter 6 of Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure, by Steve S. Ryan, PhD

Stubborn A-Fib Returns Again and From Unusual Areas

We first posted Marilyn Shook’s personal A-Fib story, “Pill-In-the-Pocket” for Five Years, then Catheter Ablation for a Cure (#25) in 2008. She then sent us updates in 2014, 2015 and now her latest update after a third ablation in late April 2016. Marilyn’s A-Fib appears to find new and unusual places to originate from.

Marilyn Shook - A-Fib story at A-Fib.com

Marilyn S.

In her lasted installment, Marilyn writes:

“It’s been a few weeks since my third PVA [Pulmonary Vein Ablation] and I am doing  well.

Just to jolt your memory―I had my first PVA in 2007 and did well for 7 years. But my A-Fib returned in 2014 and was documented by a tiny Medtronic Reveal LINQ cardiac monitor implant. A second PVA followed in October of 2014.

I was A-Fib free until February 2016 when A-Fib/Flutter returned. I opted for my third PVA, which was performed in April 2016 by Dr. David Haines at Beaumont Hospital.

Marilyn Shook is also an A-Fib Support Volunteer who lives near Detroit, MI.

My Third Ablation and Post-Ablation Complication

Under general anesthesia, my PVA was extensive work but completed in about 4 hours. I was in sinus rhythm before and after the procedure. After my ablation, I was awake, alert and responsive and then suddenly became unresponsive, with thready pulse, blood pressure plummeted.

I was having a post PVA complication―a cardiac tamponade―an emergency situation!…”

Continue reading about Marilyn’s third ablation and her medical emergency->.

Editorial: Leaving the Patient in A-Fib—No! No! No!

Recently I corresponded with a fellow who just found out he was in “silent” Atrial Fibrillation with no symptoms.

I commend his family doctor for discovering he was in A-Fib during a routine physical. Otherwise, he might easily have had an A-Fib stroke. (Of those with untreated A-Fib, 35% will suffer a stroke.) We don’t know how long he might have been in A-Fib before being diagnosed.

I wish I could commend his cardiologist too, but I can’t. His cardiologist just put him on the rate control drug, diltiazem, and left him in A-Fib.

That is so wrong for so many reasons!

Rate control drugs aren’t really a “treatment” for A-Fib. They slow the rate of the ventricles, but they leave you in A-Fib.

Rate Control Drugs Don’t Really “Treat” A-Fib

Rate control drugs aren’t really a “treatment” for A-Fib. Though they slow the rate of the ventricles, they leave you in A-Fib. They may alleviate some A-Fib symptoms, but do not address the primary risks of stroke and death associated with A-Fib.

Effects of Leaving Someone in A-Fib

A-Fib is a progressive disease.

Leaving a patient in A-Fib can have long-term damaging effects with disastrous consequences. Atrial Fibrillation can:

• Enlarge and weaken your heart often leading to other heart problems and heart failure.

• Remodel your heart, producing more and more fibrous tissue which is irreversible.

• Stretch and dilate your left atrium to the point where its function is compromised.

• Lead to progressively longer and more frequent A-Fib episodes and within a year can progress to chronic (continuous) A-Fib.

• Increase your risk of dementia and decrease your mental abilities because 15%-30% of your blood isn’t being pumped properly to your brain and other organs.

I’m So Angry at Doctors Who Just Leave Patients in A-Fib!

I can’t tell you how angry I am at cardiologists who want to leave people in A-Fib.

Even if a patient has no apparent symptoms, just putting them on rate control meds and leaving them in A-Fib can have disastrous consequences (and verges on malpractice).Don't Settle for a lifetime on medication April 2016 600 x 935 pix at 300 res

What Patients Need to Know

The goal of today’s A-Fib treatment guidelines is to get A-Fib patients back into normal sinus rhythm (NSR).

Treatment options includes antiarrhythmic drugs, chemical and electrocardioversion, catheter ablation and mini-maze surgery.

Unless too feeble, there’s no good reason to just leave someone in A-Fib.1

Don’t let your doctor leave you in A-Fib. Educate yourself. Learn your treatment options. And always aim for a Cure!

Footnote Citations    (↵ returns to text)

  1. A cardiologist may cite the 2002 AFFIRM study to justify keeping patients on rate control drugs (and anticoagulants), while leaving them in A-Fib. But this study has been contradicted by numerous other studies sinse 2002.

New FAQ: Risks of Xarelto and 3 Alternatives to Anticoagulants

We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer about the risks of anticoagulants and three alternatives to taking them.

“I have A-Fib, and my heart doctor wants me to take Xarelto 15 mg. I am concerned about the side effects which can involve death. What else can I do?”

You are right to be concerned about the side effects of Xarelto, one of the new Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs). Uncontrolled bleeding is the primary risk (patients have bled to death in the ER.)

Be advised: No anticoagulant will absolutely guarantee you will never have a stroke.

All anticoagulants are inherently dangerous. You bruise easily, cuts take a long time to stop bleeding, you can’t participate in any contact sports; there is an increased risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke and gastrointestinal bleeding. (Most EPs are well aware of the risks of life-long anticoagulation.)

Anticoagulants cause or increase bleeding. That’s how they work. To decrease your risk of blood clots and stroke, they hinder the clotting ability of your blood. But, they also increase your risk of bleeding. But in spite of the possible negative effects of anticoagulants, if you have A-Fib and a real risk of stroke, anticoagulants do work.

What Else Can You Do? Remove the Reason for an Anticoagulant—Three Options

The best way to deal with the increased risk of stroke and side effects of anticoagulants is to no longer need them. Here are three options…<…continue… to read my full answer…>

Patients’ Best Advice #7: Persevere—More Than One Treatment May be Needed

THE TOP 10 LIST #7

Persevere-Try More Than One Treatment if Necessary

A-FIB PATIENTS’ BEST ADVICE

From Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure, Chapter 12: Your Journey to a Cure. These patients needed more than one type of treatment to become free from the burden of Atrial Fibrillation:

Joan S.

Joan Schneider, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, tells about starting with drug therapy:

“The Pill-in-the-Pocket (PIP) [drug therapy] served me well prior to my [catheter ablation] procedure.” (pp. 119-124)

Jay Teresi, Atlanta, GA, describes his second ablation after being A-Fib free for three-years:

Jay T.

Jay T.

“[My EP] explained that my first procedure was a success. However, during the healing process a tiny spot did not scar and this allowed the A-Fib to trip again. He ablated that portion and touched up all the other areas. I have now been free of A-Fib for over four years (as of September, 2011).” (pp. 98-100)

Harry Emmett Finch, Malibu, CA. With 40-years of A-Fib, Emmett’s treatment evolved beyond drug therapy to his PV catheter ablation, then AV Node ablation with Pacemaker and, most recently, installation of the Watchman device:

Emmett F.

Emmett F.

“There is more help available today than when I first developed my A-Fib [in 1972], and I’m sure more treatment options (like the Watchman device) will be available in the future.” (pp 181-189)

A-Fib is Not a One-size-fits-all Disease

Your Atrial Fibrillation is unique to you. Along with various treatments, you may need to address concurrent medical conditions (i.e, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, sleep apnea). Likewise, you may need to make lifestyle changes (e.g., diet, exercise, caffeine, alcohol, smoking).

In addition, your heart is a resilient muscle that tends to heal itself, so you may need repeated procedures.

Try More Than One Treatment if Necessary.

Learn more at: Treatments for A-Fib


‘The Top 10 List of A-Fib Patients’ Best Advice’ is a a consensus of valuable advice from fellow patients who are now free from the burden of Atrial Fibrillation. From Chapter 12, Beat Your A-Fib: The Essential Guide to Finding Your Cure by Steve S. Ryan, PhD (beatyoura-fib.com)

Next, look for #8 on the
Top 10 List of A-Fib Patients’ Best Advice
Please, share the advice ♥ 

FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Safety of Multaq [dronedarone] vs amiodarone

 FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Safety dronedarone vs amiodarone

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

Safety of dronedarone

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

Multaq is probably safer than amiodarone, but it isn’t just “amiodarone-lite.”

Higher Death Rates with Dronedarone

Some studies indicate Multaq by Sanofi-Aventis (generic name: dronedarone) has its own set of problems.

In a study of dronedarone in high-risk patients with permanent A-Fib (PALLAS-3,236 patients), patients taking dronedarone were dying at more than twice the rate of those on a placebo. The ratio of stroke and hospitalization for heart failure was also more than twice as high.

The EMA recommends dronedarone not be used in patients still in A-Fib.

Dronedarone Shouldn’t Be Used in Patients in A-Fib

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has recommended that the antiarrhythmic drug dronedarone not be used in patients still in A-Fib, that it should be discontinued if A-Fib reoccurs, that it shouldn’t be used in patients who have previous liver or lung injury following treatment with amiodarone, and that patients using it should have their liver and lung functions regularly monitored.

Who Should be Taking Dronedarone (If Anyone)?

The Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) of the EMA said that dronedarone may be a useful option in patients who are in sinus rhythm after a successful cardioversion. But even in this case, dronedarone should only be prescribed after alternate treatment options have been considered.

…Dronedarone should only be prescribed after alternate treatment options have been considered.

About dronedarone, noted A-Fib blogger, Dr. John Mandrola wrote, “I’m surprised that the drug has persisted. I don’t know any of my colleagues who would start a patient out on Multaq [dronedarone]. It just doesn’t work.”

Editor’s Comments
According to these studies and news reports, no one with any type of A-Fib should be taking dronedarone (Multaq).
This is a major change in treatment options for patients with A-Fib.
Dronedarone may be associated with increased strokes, hospitalizations, heart failure, liver damage, lung damage and death. And it may not be very effective anyway.
No antiarrhythmic drug is 100% safe and effective for all A-Fib patients. But until we get more favorable research on dronedarone, all patients with A-Fib should consider not taking it and try alternative options.

References:

Connolly SJ. Dronedarone in High-Risk Permanent Atrial Fibrillation. PALLAS Clinical trial (Permanent Atrial Fibrillation Outcome Study Using Dronedarone on Top of Standard Therapy). New England Journal of Medicine, 2011; 365: 2268-76. http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1109867 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1109867

O’Riordan, Michael. “EMA recommends restricting use of dronedarone” HeartWire, Sept. 22, 2011. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/750196

Burton, Thomas M., FDA Reviews Heart-Rhythm Drug. The Wall Street Journal, September 22, 2011. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424053111904563904576585091471862916

The European Medicines Agency (EMA): a decentralised agency of the European Union (EU) is responsible for the scientific evaluation, supervision and safety monitoring of medicines developed by pharmaceutical companies for use in the EU. http://www.ema.europa.eu/ema/; See: Multaq/dronedarone

Last updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2016 Return to FAQ Drug Therapies

New Report: Is Your Stroke A-Fib-Related or Something Else?

Third in my series from the Ninth Annual Western Atrial Fibrillation Symposium held February 26-27, 2016 in Park City, UT. Read my other reports here.

If you have A-Fib, it’s important to realize that not all strokes are ‘A-Fib related’. You may be perfectly anticoagulated or have a Watchman Device installed and still experience a stroke.

Realize: an A-Fib patient can have a stroke that isn’t caused by A-Fib.

Dr. Jennifer Majersik of the Stroke Center of the Un. of Utah described the case of a man with A-Fib who had an ischemic stroke even though his INR on warfarin was in the correct range.

An A-Fib patient can have a stroke that isn’t caused by A-Fib. There are multiple mechanisms which can cause a stroke. Of the 690,000 strokes in the US/year nearly 1/3 are cryptogenic (of unknown cause) and of those 30% is caused by asymptomatic or Silent A-Fib.

Read my full report in which Dr. Majersik described five subtypes of artery occlusion strokes (as opposed to hemorrhagic [bleeding or vessel rupture] strokes.) <…continue reading…>

 

A-Fib Drug Therapies: Joann’s Success with Multaq

Recently I got good news from Joann Sickinger. She wrote me about controlling her A-Fib with drug therapy. She has been almost A-Fib free for 2 years and has not experienced any side effects.

She has been taking Multaq (dronedarone) 400 mg twice a day, along with metoprolol 12 1/2 mg once a day and Xarelto 15 mg once a day.

Joann says “I am not sure how long this will last and will opt for ablation if I start having attacks again.”

Thanks, Joann for sharing. I’m glad you are aware that drugs often stop working over time and that you are prepared to have a catheter ablation if that happens. (With a successful ablation, you may be able to stop all medications.) We wish you continued good heart health!

What's working for you? Share your tips at A-Fib.com

Email us what’s working for you.

Joann invites your email about Multaq. You can reach her at: joannbday(at)aol.com

Do you have a drug therapy story to share?

Are drugs working for you? Are your A-Fib symptoms under control? Or, have A-Fib drugs been ineffective or with side effects? Email us and share your experiences with our A-Fib.com readers.

FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Anticoagulant Side Effects and Alternatives to Xarelto (NOACs)

 FAQs A-Fib Drug Therapy: Alternatives to Xarelto

Drug Therapies for Atrial Fibrillation, A-Fib, Afib

24. “I have A-Fib, and my heart doctor wants me to take Xarelto 15 mg. I am concerned about the side effects which can involve death. What else can I do?”

You are right to be concerned about the side effects of Xarelto, one of the new Novel Oral Anticoagulants (NOACs).

All anticoagulants are inherently dangerous. You bruise easily, cuts take a long time to stop bleeding, you can’t participate in any contact sports; there is an increased risk of developing a hemorrhagic stroke and gastrointestinal bleeding. “Oral anticoagulants are high-risk medications” (Drs. Witt & Hansen) (Most EPs are well aware of the risks of life-long anticoagulation.)

Primary risk: Uncontrolled bleeding is the primary risk (patients have bled to death in the ER.) Anticoagulants cause or increase bleeding. That’s how they work. To decrease your risk of blood clots and stroke, they hinder the clotting ability of your blood. But, they also increase your risk of bleeding.

Normally, clotting is a good thing like when you have a scrape or cut.

Other risks: Do the NOACs have the same long-term problems as warfarin (Coumadin), i.e., microbleeds in the brain, hemorrhagic stroke, early dementia, etc.?

We don’t know yet. The NOACs haven’t been around long enough to determine their long-term side effects. But intuitively one would expect so. (The recent spate of ads from lawyers seeking clients who have been harmed by NOACs would seem to lead to this conclusion.)

Anticoagulants Protect You and Give Peace of Mind

But in spite of the possible negative effects of anticoagulants, if you have A-Fib and a real risk of stroke, anticoagulants do work. You’re no longer 4–5 times more likely to have an A-Fib (ischemic) stroke. Taking an anticoagulant to prevent an A-Fib stroke also may give you peace of mind.

What Else Can You Do? Remove the Reason for an Anticoagulant—Three Options

Be advised: No anticoagulant will absolutely guarantee you will never have a stroke.

Be advised that no anticoagulant or blood thinner will absolutely guarantee you will never have a stroke. Even warfarin [Coumadin] only reduces the risk of stroke by 55% to 65% in A-Fib patients. See Risks of Life-Long Anticoagulation.

The best way to deal with the increased risk of stroke and side effects of anticoagulants is to no longer need them. Here are three options:

#1 Alternative: Get rid of your A-Fib.

As EP and prolific blogger Dr. John Mandrola wrote: “…if there is no A-Fib, there is no benefit from anticoagulation.”

Action: Request a catheter ablation procedure. Today, you can have an ablation immediately (called ‘first-line therapy’). You don’t have to waste a year on failed drug therapies. See Catheter Ablation Reduces Stroke Risk Even for Higher Risk Patients

#2 Alternative: Close off your Left Atrial Appendage (LAA).

The Left Atrial Appendage is where 90%-95% of A-Fib clots originate.

Action: Request a Watchman device. The Watchman device is inserted to close off your LAA and keep clots from entering your blood stream. See Watchman Better Than Lifetime on Warfarin

#3 Alternative: Consider non-prescription blood thinners

Ask your doctor about your CHA2DS2-VASc score (a stroke risk assessor). If your score is a 1 or 2 (out of 10), ask if you could take a non-prescription approach to a blood thinner.

Perhaps you can benefit from an increase in natural blood thinners such as turmeric, ginger and vitamin E or, especially, the supplement Nattokinase. See FAQ: “Are natural blood thinners as good as prescription blood thinners?” 

Bottom Line

Whether or not to take anticoagulants (and which one) is one of the most difficult decisions you and your doctor must make. Talk to your doctor about alternatives to anticoagulants: 

Taking an anticoagulant isn’t like taking a daily vitamin. Only take one if you are at a real risk of stroke.

• Catheter ablation
• LAA closure (Watchman device)
• Non-prescription blood thinners

If you decide to stay on a NOAC, ask your doctor about taking Eliquis instead of Xarelto. Eliquis tested better than the other NOACs and is considered safer. See Warfarin vs. Pradaxa and the Other New Anticoagulants and the FAQ: Is Eliquis Safer.

Thanks to Jim Lewis for this question.

References:

Witt, Daniel W. and Hansen, Alisyn L. editorial in New Oral Anticoagulants Can Require Careful Dosing Too. by Scott Baltic. Medscape/Reuters Health Information, December 29, 2016. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/873821?src=wnl_edit_tpal

Remember:
You must be your own best patient advocate.
Don’t settle for a lifetime on anticoagulants or blood thinners.

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Last updated: Sunday, January 1, 2017 Return to FAQ Drug Therapies

Are Anticoagulants and blood thinners the same thing? How do they thin the blood?

We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer under Drug Therapies and Medicines in our section:

Are Anticoagulants and blood thinners the same thing? How do they thin the blood?

Blood clots are usually good, such as when you get a scrape or cut.

Since A-Fib increases your risk of clots and stroke, blood thinners are prescribed to prevent or break up blood clots in your heart and blood vessels and thereby reduce your chance of an A-Fib-related stroke.

Although referred to as “blood thinners”, they don’t actually affect the “thickness” of your blood.

Anticoagulant Warfarin chemical diagram

Anticoagulant Warfarin

There are two main types: anticoagulants and antiplatelet agents.  They work differently to accomplish the same end effect.

Anticoagulants work chemically to lengthen the time it takes to form a blood clot.

Common anticoagulants include warfarin (Coumadin), Heparin and the NOACs such as apixaban (Eliquis).

Antiplatelet Aspirin

Antiplatelets prevent blood cells (platelets) from clumping together to form a clot.

Common antiplatelet medications include aspirin, ticlopidine (Ticlid) and clopidogrel (Plavix) .

Final answer: Yes, an anticoagulant is a blood thinner, but not all blood thinners are anticoagulants.

Note: To read about ‘clot buster’ drugs or treatments that could save you from a debilitating stroke, see my article: Your Nearest ‘Certified Stroke Center’ Could Save Your Life.

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