Question

Living With Atrial Fibrillation & Prevention

What are the complications of atrial fibrillation?

A Answers (8)

  • Atrial fibrillation has two very serious complications: stroke and heart failure. A stroke can occur if the irregular rhythm of your heart keeps it from pumping blood out of your upper heart chambers, the atria. As the blood collects in your atria, it can clot; the risk of blood clots is that they can get out of the heart, circulate through your body, and travel to your brain, where it can block blood flow - this is a stroke. Old age, high blood pressure, enlarged left atrium, diabetes, and structural heart disorders raise your risk for a clot. Stroke is such a risk in atrial fibrillation that many treatment plans include a medication to prevent clotting.

    Heart failure can occur due to prolonged atrial fibrillation, which decreases the heart's ability to function. Untreated atrial fibrillation is more likely to cause heart failure. Discuss treatment options with your doctor that will reduce your risk for complications.

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  • AAndrew J. Brenyo, MD, Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology, answered on behalf of Greenville Health System
    With appropriate medical therapy, the complications are minimal. Left uncontrolled with prolonged elevations in the heart rate, atrial fibrillation can eventually result in a weakening of the heart muscle and the development of congestive heart failure.

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  • There are several possible complications of atrial fibrillation. Sometimes, when a person's heart rhythm first goes into atrial fibrillation, the heart does not pump effectively and can cause the blood pressure to drop. This is dangerous because it can cause the brain and other body parts to not get enough oxygen. Another long-term complication of atrial fibrillation is stroke. People who have atrial fibrillation can form clots in the heart; these clots can break loose and travel to the brain, where they can cause a stroke.
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  • ACharles Neiditz, MD, Internal Medicine, answered on behalf of Baptist Health South Florida

    A common complication from atrial fibrillation is the formation of blood clots in the heart. In a person with atrial fibrillation, blood does not flow out of the upper chambers of the heart (atria) in a normal manner. This creates a greater probability of blood clot formation.

    The clots may then find their way into the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles), and subsequently to the lungs or into general circulation. Clots in general circulation may eventually block arteries in the brain, causing a stroke.

    A person with atrial fibrillation is twice as likely to develop a stroke compared to other people. The risk is even greater as you get older. Hypertension, diabetes, and a history of clots are stroke risk factors that are more serious if a person has atrial fibrillation.

    If atrial fibrillation is not managed or controlled, the condition could lead to a weaker heart. This may result in heart failure. That's when the heart does not pump blood around the body efficiently or properly. The person's left side, right side, or even both sides of the body can be affected.

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  • AAudrey K. Chun, MD, Internal Medicine, answered on behalf of The Mount Sinai Health System
    Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is an irregular heart rhythm in which the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) beat chaotically, rather than regularly, which results in them being out of coordination with the two lower chambers (ventricles). While AFib isn't life-threatening in itself, it may result in some fatigue, as the ventricle has less blood in it when it pumps than it would have if it had received a contribution from the atria. The heart may also race, which can result in lightheadedness, a heart attack, and/or heart failure, in which the heart is unable to pump adequate blood to the other organs. The abnormal rhythm also can cause blood to pool in the atria and form clots -- if a clot breaks away and travels to the brain, it can result in a stroke (the risk of stroke from AFib increases with age).
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  • ADouglas Severance, MD, Family Medicine, answered
    Two very serious complications of atrial fibrillation include heart failure and stroke. With atrial fibrillation, the heartbeat is rapid. Over time, this causes the heart to work too hard. When the heart cannot pump enough blood to the rest of the body, it results in heart failure, a serious condition. With atrial fibrillation, blood clots can form in the atria of the heart. If a blood clot breaks off and gets into the bloodstream, it can go straight to the brain and result in a stroke.
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  • The two most serious potential complications of chronic atrial fibrillation are stroke and heart failure.

    In atrial fibrillation, blood clots can form as blood pools in the fibrillating atria instead of flowing into the ventricles. These blood clots can break off and travel to the brain, causing a stroke. People with atrial fibrillation often receive blood thinners to reduce the risk of blood clots and subsequent stroke.

    Heart failure may occur when the ventricles beat too fast and don't have sufficient time to fill with blood to pump to the rest of the body to meet its needs.

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  • AJoan Haizlip, MSN, Cardiology, answered

    The two most common and most serious complications of chronic atrial fibrillation are stroke and heart failure. 

    In atrial fibrillation, blood can pool in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart and form blood clots.  If these blood clots get loose, they can travel to your brain and cause a stroke.

    Heart failure happens because the heart becomes weakened and over stressed.  It cannot pump enough blood to the rest of your body and blood backs up in your lungs, legs and feet.  This is called congestive heart failure

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What are my chances of having a stroke if I have atrial fibrillation?