Atrial Fibrillation Treatment
For people who only experience occasional episodes, treatment for atrial fibrillation may be as simple as avoiding things that aggravate the condition (such as tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine). In more serious cases, treatment options may include medication, electrical cardioversion, and surgery. Even if your atrial fibrillation does not require treatment, careful monitoring can prevent it from worsening.
Atrial fibrillation treatment recommendations will vary based on several factors. Your treatment options depend partly on your symptoms of atrial fibrillation, how severe they are, and how much they interfere with your life. They also depend on whether or not some other underlying disease is causing the condition.
The goals of treatment for atrial fibrillation usually include one or more of the following:
- Return the heartbeat to a normal sinus rhythm, if possible
- Control the heart rate
- Prevent blood clots from forming by prescribing an anticoagulant (blood-thinning) medication, such as Coumadin®
- Treat the underlying causes of the abnormal rhythm and any atrial fibrillation complications
- Reduce the risk factors that may lead to a worsening of the condition.
To prevent blood clots and strokes, there are three different standard options, including:
- Warfarin (Coumadin®, Jantoven®), an older, less expensive option that requires extensive monitoring
- Dabigatran (Pradaxa®), a newer, more expensive option that requires little monitoring
Aspirin is typically used for younger people at low risk for a stroke, since it is not as effective as warfarin or dabigatran.