Jefferson Health

Atrial Fibrillation

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Dr. Frisch discusses atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common form of arrhythmia, or abnormality of heart rhythm, affecting more than two million Americans. In AF, the heart's upper chambers beat rapidly and irregularly, which can cause poor blood flow to the body. Appropriate treatment of AF will control and reduce the risk of stroke.

The medical staff of Jefferson's Electrophysiology Laboratory is among the most experienced in the Philadelphia region in diagnosing and treating arrhythmias, such as atrial fibrillation. Jefferson has set the standard in the region for atrial fibrillation care through a track record of outstanding patient care, groundbreaking scientific research and the use of innovative technologies and techniques.

Who Has Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is relatively rare in young, healthy people, although it can occur. It is found most often in people over age 65 – three to five percent of that population – and in those who have heart disease.

Atrial fibrillation increases elderly patients' risk of stroke. The irregular contractions of the left atrium may cause blood to pool, which may result in the formation of blood clots. These clots can break loose and travel through the bloodstream to the brain, causing a stroke.

Besides advanced age, the clinical risk factors for stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation include history of a previous stroke or transient ischemic attack (temporary paralysis, numbness, speech difficulty or other neurologic symptoms that start suddenly but from which the patient recovers within 24 hours), heart failure, diabetes and high blood pressure.