Atrial Fibrillation and Current Treatment Options

Dr. Stephen Fort, MD, MBChB, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses what is AF and treatment options.

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Dr. Stephen Fort, MD, MBChB, FRCSC, Cardiologist, discusses what is AF and treatment options.
Video transcript

Featuring Dr. Stephen Fort, MD, MBChB, FRCSC, Cardiologist

Duration: 2 minutes, 53 seconds

Well, normal rhythm of the heart is called sinus rhythm.  

It’s a little like a clock beating normally between 60 or perhaps 100 beats per minute at rest. The heart rhythm can change, become irregular, and fast. The most common condition of this is atrial fibrillation otherwise known as AF.  

When patients develop atrial fibrillation, we try to restore the normal regular sinus rhythm to get them back to where they were, and such a treatment may require a cardioversion, which is an electric shock treatment to the heart.  

In those patients that first present with atrial fibrillation, or in those patients in which we fail to restore the normal rhythm of the heart, then drug therapy is required long-term, and there are two forms of drug therapy.  

The first is rhythm drugs and the second is blood thinners or anticoagulants used to prevent a stroke in these patients because they are to slightly increase risk of a stroke.  

Patients with a low risk of a stroke will probably be sufficiently treated with aspirin, but patients slightly older, patients with other risk factors of a stroke, such as high blood pressure, are best treated with oral anticoagulants of which Warfarin is probably the most commonly known.  

We’ve used it for many years. It does require regular monitoring. Patients don’t particularly like to take it for that reason. It doesn’t completely reduce the risk of a stroke to zero, and of course the patient’s role is at a small risk of bleeding, but that has been until recently the standard of care.  

If patients have atrial fibrillation and the absence of any other form of heart disease, there is a new group of oral anticoagulants that we can use instead of Warfarin.  They are at least as good at preventing bleeding, and are at least as good of preventing strokes.  

They don’t require regular monitoring, and certainly in these patients who don’t have valvular heart disease associated with atrial fibrillation, it’s just atrial fibrillation, they are a viable alternative to taking Warfarin on a long-term basis.  

If you have any questions about which of the three new oral anticoagulants is best for you then it's best to approach your family  doctor, your cardiologist or your pharmacist for more information.

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Presenter: Dr. Stephen Fort, Cardiologist, Kelowna, BC

Local Practitioners: Cardiologist

This content is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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