Common treatments for AFib explained | Ascension
Adam Bainey, DO

Common treatments for AFib explained


Dr. Adam Bainey, cardiac electrophysiologist at Ascension Sacred Heart in Miramar Beach, Florida answers your common questions about AFib treatment.

Dr. Adam Bainey is a board certified cardiac electrophysiologist with Ascension Medical Group Sacred Heart Cardiology Miramar Beach and performs  minimally-invasive heart procedures to treat AFib at Ascension Sacred Heart Emerald Coast.

 

We asked Adam Bainey, DO, cardiac electrophysiologist at Ascension Sacred Heart in Miramar Beach, Florida to help us answer some common questions people have about AFib treament.  

What is the most common treatment for AFib? 

Blood thinners

One of the treatments doctors use the most often are blood thinners. Blood thinners help to prevent strokes, which is the greatest risk factor associated with AFib. 

Cardioversion, antiarism drug or ablation

Other treatment options are discussed depending on whether or not a patient is having symptoms. Symptoms can include shortness of breath, palpitations and fatigue. 

Sometimes if you are having symptoms, we may suggest a cardioversion. A cardioversion is a procedure used to shock your heart back into a regular rhythm. This is the quickest way to stop irregular heartbeats. 

Another medication option is an antiarrhythmic drug. These drugs prevent and treat abnormal heartbeats. 

An ablation offers patients the longest lasting results for controlling AFib. An ablation is a non-surgical procedure to help correct a rapid, irregular heartbeat. 

Cryoablation and radio frequency ablation

There are two different types of ablations. One is called a cryoablation, which is freezing. The other is radiofrequency ablation, which is burning. Different cardiac electrophysiologists have different thought processes regarding the treatment modality. Your doctor can discuss your options with you to help you choose what is best for your care plan. 

Cryoablation uses a balloon to freeze heart cells that cause an irregular heartbeat. If the atrium is normal size or even a little bit dilated, this is the type of ablation that may be recommended. 

If your atrium is large, the balloon would end up inside the vein, which is not where you want it to be. If the balloon ends up in the vein, you can actually get stenosis or a narrowing of those veins. So in that scenario, your doctor may consult with you about a point by point radio frequency ablation which burns the cells causing the heart to beat abnormally. 

WATCHMAN

Sometimes, structural or heart valve damage can cause AFib. Heart surgeons specialize in minimally invasive surgical techniques to repair a heart valve and help prevent blood clots, using the WATCHMAN™ device. During a minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes tiny incisions. This surgical approach helps shorten your recovery time and helps lower your risk of infection. We deliver advanced care to help improve how your heart works.

 

How do you stop AFib Fast?

Cardioversion

The quickest way to deal with AFib is going to be a cardioversion, which is where a doctor electrically shocks your heart back to rhythm, like a hard reset. 

If you come into the ER complaining of chest pain, shortness of breath, and you’re found to be in AFib and the symptoms started less than 48 hours prior, you can go straight in and get a cardioversion.

If it has been more than 48 hours since your symptoms started, you will need what's called a TE which is a transesophageal echocardiogram before you can get a cardioversion.  This is done to check you to make sure you don't have a blood clot. The probe is about the size of a pinky finger goes in the food pipe.

What triggers AFib?

There's a lot of different things that can trigger AFib and can also be a lot of different things for different people. 

What you drink

Alcohol can be a big trigger for AFib. Some people believe that alcohol can be cardio protective, but the studies show that it can cause patients to go into AFib. Excessive drinking of caffeine can also cause people to go into AFib. 

Sleep apnea 

Sleep apnea is a huge risk factor for AFib. Every time you stop breathing you increase pressure. Then your lungs, which transmit to increase pressures in the heart and the top chamber that atrium is not made for such high pressure. 

What to do if you are having symptoms

Heart care can’t wait. When you notice a change in your heartbeat, such as a flutter or quiver in your chest, start a conversation about your new symptoms with a cardiologist at Ascension Sacred Heart. Cardiologists specialize in atrial fibrillation (AFib), a type of arrhythmia where your heartbeat is irregular, either too fast or too slow. 

Find a doctor who listens

Your heart care is important. To deliver personalized care, your cardiologist at Ascension Sacred Heart starts by listening to understand you, your health history and your goals. We take the time to answer all your questions — big and small. Remember to tell your doctor how you are feeling at each visit. By getting to know you, we deliver heart care that’s right for you. To find a heart doctor visit ascension.org/PensacolaHeart.