Question

Atrial Fibrillation

What is atrial fibrillation (AFib)?

A Answers (26)

  • AMehmet Oz, MD, Cardiology, answered
    Aortic Valve Stenosis
    Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular heartbeat in which the upper chambers of the heart, called the atria, quiver instead of contracting normally. Watch this animation to learn more about AF, most common cardiac arrhythmia.




    Helpful? 3 people found this helpful.
  • Atrial fibrillation, or AF, is the most common type of arrhythmia. An arrhythmia is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.

    AF occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the atria, the two upper chambers of the heart, to fibrillate. The term "fibrillate" means to contract very fast and irregularly.

    In AF, blood pools in the atria and isn't pumped completely into the ventricles, the heart's two lower chambers. As a result, the heart's upper and lower chambers don't work together as they should.

    Often, people who have AF may not feel symptoms. However, even when not noticed, AF can increase the risk of stroke. In some people, AF can cause chest pain or heart failure, particularly when the heart rhythm is very rapid.

    AF may occur rarely or every now and then, or it may become a persistent or permanent heart rhythm lasting for years.

    This answer from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

    Helpful? 2 people found this helpful.
  • Normally, your heart contracts and relaxes to a regular beat. Your heart has a natural pacemaker, called the “sinus node,” that makes electrical signals. These signals cause the heart to contract and pump blood. These electrical signals show up on an electrocardiogram, or ECG, recording. Your doctor can read your ECG to find out if the electric signals are normal.

    In atrial fibrillation, sometimes called a-fib, the two small upper chambers (atria) of the heart don’t beat the way they should. Instead of beating in a regular, normal pattern, they beat irregularly and too fast. It’s important for the heart to pump properly, because that’s how your body gets the oxygen and food it needs. You can live with atrial fibrillation, but it can lead to other heart rhythm problems, chronic fatigue, heart failure and — worst of all — stroke. You’ll need a doctor to help you control the problem. Atrial fibrillation is a type of heart condition called arrhythmia.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • Atrial fibrillation is a type of cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate and/or rhythm). Atrial fibrillation produces a rapid and irregular heartbeat, during which the atria (the upper two chambers of the heart that receive blood) quiver (or fibrillate) instead of beating normally.

    During a normal heartbeat, the electrical impulses that cause the atria to contract begin in the sinus node, a small area of the right atrium. During atrial fibrillation, however, these impulses come from all over the atria, triggering 300 to 500 contractions per minute within the heart's upper chambers.

    Under normal circumstances, the atrioventricular node would receive these impulses and conduct them to the ventricles (the lower two chambers of the heart that do the pumping). During atrial fibrillation, however, the atrioventricular node becomes overwhelmed by all of the impulses it receives from the atria, and the result is an irregular and rapid heartbeat (80 to 160 beats per minute versus normal 60 to 100 beats per minute).

    The rapid and irregular heartbeat cannot pump blood out of the heart efficiently. As a result, blood tends to pool in the heart chambers, which increases the risk of blood clot formation inside the heart. Blood clots can travel from the heart into the bloodstream and circulate through the body. Ultimately, they may become lodged in an artery, causing pulmonary embolism, stroke and other disorders.

    Helpful? 2 people found this helpful.
  • ADonald S. Rubenstein, MDPhD, Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, answered on behalf of Greenville Health System

    Atrial fibrillation is a disorganized rhythm of the upper chambers of the heart. Symptoms can range widely among different patients, being unnoticeable in some, while others may experience palpitations, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, weakness and or dizziness.  In some patients, atrial fibrillation may also lead to congestive heart failure or stroke.

    The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Nor does the contents of this website constitute the establishment of a physician patient or therapeutic relationship. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • If your heart sometimes beats unevenly, you might be experiencing atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation is the most common heart rhythm problem in the United States. Along with creating uncomfortable symptoms, it can also increase your risk of other serious medical conditions:
    • Other heart rhythm problems
    • Heart failure
    • Stroke
  • Atrial fibrillation is a type of arrhythmia (irregular, or abnormally fast or slow, heartbeats) that can cause rapid, irregular beating of the heart's upper chambers. Blood may pool and clot inside the heart, increasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

    The presence of the CDC logo and CDC content on this page should not be construed to imply endorsement by the US Government of any commercial products or services, or to replace the advice of a medical professional. The mark “CDC” is licensed under authority of the PHS.
  • AVivek Reddy, MD, Internal Medicine, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter are the most common forms of arrhythmia. They are a leading cause of stroke and can lead to heart failure.

    Atrial fibrillation occurs when the upper chambers of the heart, the atria, beat out of sync with the lower chambers, called the ventricles. The resulting quivering leaves blood pooled in the atria, putting patients at risk for blood clots that can cause a stroke. The ventricles often compensate by contracting more rapidly, potentially enlarging and weakening the heart.

    Temporary atrial fibrillation can revert to normal on its own. If it persists, doctors sometimes treat with medications, and when this fails or is not tolerated, doctors can perform a catheter procedure (called Catheter Ablation) to eliminate the cause of the arrhythmia.

    Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, but with more regular intervals between beats.

  • Atrial fibrillation (AF) describes an arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm. Several conditions -- including valvular heart disease, high levels of thyroid hormone, and certain forms of heart failure (weakened heart muscle) -- can cause it. Some people have no apparent cause -- a condition called "lone" atrial fibrillation.

    Atrial fibrillation can also accompany aging, and this is one of the reasons why the prevalence of this form of abnormal heartbeat is on the rise. In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) wiggle ineffectively without pumping properly, and with chaotic rather than orderly contraction. This situation causes several troublesome problems.

    Often, but not always, people with atrial fibrillation experience a rapid, irregular heartbeat that can be annoying or even frightening, and can also cause low blood pressure, low heart output, and faintness or fatigue.
  • AAudrey K. Chun, MD, Internal Medicine, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Atrial fibrillation (AFib) affects more than 2 million Americans. Because it causes the upper chambers of the heart (atria) to beat in an irregular pattern that isn't coordinated with the lower chambers (ventricles), blood flow to the body can be hampered, leading to symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath and fatigue. It also can lead to a pooling of blood, which can result in clots that could break free and wind up in the brain.

    The biggest health concern for patients with AFib is the potential increase in the risk for stroke. For patients with heart valve conditions, such as mitral valve stenosis, or a prior history of stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), that risk could be quite high. Other factors, such as high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes and advancing age, all increase the risk of stroke.

    Age and cardiovascular disease are the strongest predictors of AFib. You may be at risk if you've had a heart attack or heart failure, or have other structural problems with your heart, such as valve disease.
    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • ASCAI answered

    You can think of your heart as having its own internal pacemaker. A series of electrical impulses causes the chambers of the heart to contract in a carefully timed sequence. This is your heartbeat. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the electrical system in the heart does not function properly. The two small upper chambers of the heart (the atria) quiver instead of beating normally. This results in blood not being pumped completely out of the chamber, so the blood may pool and clot within the top chambers of the heart (the ventricles). While atrial fibrillation does not always have serious complications, it can result in stroke or heart failure.

  • ARonald Mark Firth, MD, Family Medicine, answered on behalf of Intermountain Healthcare
    In atrial fibrillation (also called Afib), your heart beats rapidly or unevenly. Here’s a comparison of how the heart beats normally and what happens with Afib:
    In a normal heart electrical impulses are generated by the SA
           node, a small area in the hearts right upper chamber (atrium).
           As the electrical impulses travel smoothly through the heart, 
           the two upper chambers (the atria) squeeze at the same time
           to pump blood down to the lower chambers (the ventricles).
           Then the two ventricles squeeze at the same time, pumping
           blood to your lungs to pick up oxygen and to the rest of your
           body. The heart beats regularly and evenly, about 60 to 100
           times a minute. With Afib, electrical impulses come too rapidly and don’t travel
           smoothly. Instead, many of the impulses cycle around within
           the atria. This can cause the atria to quiver, and in turn the
           ventricles can beat rapidly. The atria and ventricles don’t
           coordinate in a normal rhythm, and the heart can beat
           rapidly, up to 300 times per minute. Afib can come and go -- returning to normal after a few minutes or hours -- or it can persist.
  • Atrial fibrillation, the most common type of serious arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), is characterized by very fast, irregular electrical signals in the upper chambers of the heart called the atria. These electrical signals may travel through the atria at a rate of more than 300 per minute. The walls of the atria quiver very quickly, making them pump blood ineffectively. The bottom chambers of the heart, called the ventricles, continue to contract and pump blood normally; however, they may do so in a rapid and irregular fashion.

  • Atrial fibrillation (AF) is an irregular and often rapid heartbeat that is caused by disorganized electrical activity. Normally the pumping of the heart is initiated at the upper portion of the heart and sent downward in a regular pattern, resulting in the typical heartbeat. In atrial fibrillation, this regular pattern is disrupted, and therefore the heart doesn't pump as expected.
    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • AScripps Health answered

    The most common form of abnormal heart rhythm is atrial fibrillation. Characterized by a very rapid, irregular rhythm in the upper or atrial chambers of the heart, atrial fibrillation is more common with age.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • AMandip Dhamoon, MD, Neurology, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Atrial fibrillation is an irregular beating of the heart. This is the most common irregular heart rhythm and a risk factor for ischemic stroke.
  • Atrial fibrillation occurs when the atrium contracts irregularly or with one portion contracting well before or after another. When this happens the atrium cannot push blood into the ventricles in the normal manner and your heart may feel like it is racing.
  • AMohamed Djelmami-Hani, MD, Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, answered on behalf of Aurora Health Care
    Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm disorder. Since the name is difficult to recall for most people, you will often hear it called AF or A-fib. It is the most common arrhythmia heart rhythm disorder seen by physicians and the most common rhythm causing hospital admission. More than two million people in the United States have atrial fibrillation.
  • Atrial fibrillation, or a-fib, is a common cardiac arrhythmia, or heart-rhythm disorder. It affects 3 million Americans.
    This abnormal heart rhythm occurs when several electrical impulses in the heart fire simultaneously instead of systematically. This causes a fast and haphazard heartbeat.
  • ANatalia Rost, MD, Neurology, answered
    Atrial fibrillation is a common arrhythmia that affects about 2.2 million people in the United States. For reasons that aren't fully understood, the upper chambers of the heart periodically quiver erratically. As a result, blood swirls around and pools inside the upper chambers, especially the left atrium. The stagnant blood in the left atrium may form clots that can cause a stroke if they break loose and make their way to the brain.
  • APenn Medicine answered
    Approximately 2.5 million Americans experience atrial fibrillation (AFib) each year. This common heart disorder occurs when electrical signals in the heart become irregular, causing the heart to beat out of rhythm. The normal range for a heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute, while the heart rate in atrial fibrillation may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute.
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is disorder of the rhythm of the heart. Instead of your heart beating in a very regular fashion, in atrial fibrillation the heart beats very irregular. When the heart is in atrial fibrillation, it can beat very rapidly. The symptoms of atrial fibrillation can be rapid pulse, lightheadedness, shortness of breath or chest pain. Some patients experience no symptoms at all. It is estimated that 2.2 million Americans have atrial fibrillation.
  • AHealthwise answered

    Atrial fibrillation (say "AY-tree-uhl fih-bruh-LAY-shun") is a type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) in which the heart's upper chambers quiver, or fibrillate. This increases the risk of blood clots, which can cause a stroke or other problems. The lower chambers beat without a regular rhythm and may beat too fast. This can cause symptoms like lightheadedness or chest pain.

    Treatment is done to control your heart rate or heart rhythm and to prevent stroke.



    This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. To learn more visit Healthwise.org

    © Healthwise, Incorporated.

    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • ACharles Neiditz, MD, Internal Medicine, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida
    Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a common type of arrhythmia, which refers to an irregular rate or rhythm of heartbeats. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
    AF is present if rapid, chaotic electrical signals cause the heart's two upper chambers -- the atria -- to fibrillate. The term "fibrillate" means to contract very fast and irregularly. Instead of the impulses traveling in an orderly fashion through the heart, many impulses begin at the same time and spread through the atria.
    In AF, blood pools in the atria and doesn't pump completely into the heart's two lower chambers, called the ventricles. Because the electrical impulses are so rapid and chaotic, the atria cannot contract and/or squeeze blood properly into the ventricle.
    As a result, the heart's upper and lower chambers don't work well together.
    People who have AF may not feel symptoms. However, the condition can increase the risk of stroke. In some people, AF can cause chest pain or heart failure, especially if the heart rhythm is very rapid.
    Helpful? 1 person found this helpful.
  • AGraham M. Bundy, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgery, answered on behalf of Henrico Doctors' Hospital - HCA Virginia
    Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia, which is the incidence of the heart beating irregularly. AFib is caused by a multitude of factors, some environmental, some behavioral and some genetic. It is often found in those with atherosclerosis, angina, hypertension, and in people with lung problems, including asthma, emphysema, pulmonary blood clots and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). AFib is also commonly associated with diseases such as stroke and heart failure, and as AFib becomes permanent in a person, mortality rates increase.
  • ADouglas Severance, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    Atrial fibrillation, also known as atrial fib, A. Fib, or AF, is the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm. Atrial fibrillation causes the two upper chambers of the heart (called the atria) to fibrillate -- or beat fast and irregularly -- out of sync with the two lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. Your heart muscle’s main job is to keep your blood pumping through the body. Valves in the heart work to make sure your blood moves in a forward direction through the blood vessels, which function like pipes and circulate the blood around the body. However, the irregular heartbeat of atrial fibrillation interrupts the normal flow of blood through the heart.
Did You See?  Close
Why is atrial fibrillation (AFib) a burden to the healthcare system?