7. I’ve heard about ‘stiff heart’ or diastolic dysfunction. When you have A-Fib, do you automatically have diastolic heart failure? What exactly is diastolic dysfunction?
Someone with A-Fib can have much the same symptoms as someone with a ‘stiff heart’ or diastolic dysfunction. But A-Fib is an electrical problem that is often fixable, whereas diastolic dysfunction is a structural (or plumbing) problem usually not easily fixed.
Here are some statements from doctors I asked about this question:
• “Diastolic dysfunction (stiff heart) can lead to congestive heart failure. A-Fib is electrical. But some patients with A-Fib also have diastolic dysfunction.”
• “While many people with A-Fib do indeed have diastolic dysfunction (usually as a result of hypertension), this is not always the case. On the other hand, there is no doubt that hypertension and the consequent effect on atrial stretch exacerbates the situation. Perhaps the best way to think about it is that based on one’s genetic predisposition, one has a certain propensity to develop A-Fib. This can be modulated (i.e., exacerbated) by conditions that increase atrial pressure—such as hypertension, valve disease, heart failure, etc.”
Diastolic dysfunction refers to a decline in performance of one or both ventricles. ‘Diastole’ refers to the time when the ventricles are relaxing and filling with incoming blood as compared to when the ventricles are propelling blood out to the rest of the body. Diastolic Dysfunction may refer to both the left atrium and left ventricle being stiff and not functioning properly. (Whereas in A-Fib the focus is on the left atrium.)
When someone in A-Fib is restored to normal sinus rhythm, usually both the left atrium and left ventricle begin to function normally again. But someone with long term A-Fib may also develop an anatomical or mechanical pumping problem—diastolic dysfunction (stiff heart), fibrosis, scarring, cardiomyopathy, etc. which are more permanent and harder to improve. (Another reason to treat your A-Fib as soon as possible.)
Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017
Atrial Fibrillation patients often have loads of “Why?” and “How?” questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions by patients and their families. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)
1. Causes: “Why does so much Atrial Fibrillation come from the Pulmonary Vein openings?”
Related Question: “What causes Paroxysmal A-Fib to turn into Persistent (Chronic) A-Fib?”
Related Question: “A-Fib and Flutter—I have both. Does one cause the other?”
2. Hereditary: “Is my Atrial Fibrillation genetic? Will my children get A-Fib too?”
3. PSVT: “Is Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) different from what doctors call Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?”
4. Adrenergic/Vagal: “What is the difference between “Adrenergic” and “Vagal” Atrial Fibrillation? How can I tell if I have one or the other? Does it really matter? Does Pulmonary Vein Ablation (Isolation) work for Adrenergic and/or Vagal A-Fib?”
5. Stiff Heart: “I’ve heard about ‘stiff heart’ or diastolic dysfunction. When you have A-Fib, do you automatically have diastolic heart failure? What exactly is diastolic dysfunction?”
6. Stem Cells: “I’ve read about stem cells research to regenerate damaged heart tissue. Could this help cure A-Fib patients?”
7. EF: “What is the heart’s ejection fraction? As an A-Fib patient, is it important to know my EF?”
8. Anesthesia: “I read that the local anesthesia my dentist uses may trigger my A-Fib. Why is that?”
9. Fibrosis: “How can I determine or measure how much fibrosis I have? Can something non-invasive like a CT scan measure fibrosis?”
10. Treatment Options: “My surgeon wants to close off my LAA during my Mini-Maze surgery. Should I agree? What’s the role of the Left Atrial Appendage?”
Related Question: “My cardiologist recommends a pacemaker. I have paroxysmal A-Fib with “pauses” at the end of an event. Will they stop if my A-Fib is cured? I am willing, but want to learn more about these pauses first.”
Related Question: “My EP won’t even try a catheter ablation. My left atrium is over 55mm and several cardioversions have failed. I am 69 years old, in permanent A-Fib for 15 years, but non-symptomatic. I exercise regularly and have met some self-imposed extreme goals. What more can I do?
If you find any errors on this page, email us. Y Last updated: Tuesday, February 14, 2017