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Is occasional atrial fibrillation serious?

Andrew J. Brenyo, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
In truth, any atrial fibrillation is a serious event. This is due to the fact that the risk of stroke is the same for patients with a small amount and a large amount of atrial fibrillation. Therefore, even with short bursts of atrial fibrillation, depending on your risk factors, we would consider anticoagulation to minimize the risk of stroke.

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Douglas E. Severance, MD
Family Medicine
Any type of atrial fibrillation has the potential to be serious since the risk of blood clots and stroke increases. With occasional atrial fibrillation, you may notice the arrhythmia for a few minutes and then it may go away. Your doctor may not be able to detect the arrhythmia with a physical examination or tests. Also, with occasional atrial fibrillation, the heart may go back to normal rhythm on its own.

If the atrial fibrillation persists, your doctor may prescribe anti-coagulant drugs such as warfarin (Coumadin) to prevent blood clots and stroke. Other medications may be used to slow the heart rate and to convert the rhythm to normal sinus rhythm. Talk to your doctor if you have occasional atrial fibrillation to see how certain lifestyle changes may also help stop this arrhythmia. This may include avoiding caffeine, smoking, alcohol and stress.
Joan Haizlip, MSN
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Occasional atrial fibrillation (A Fib) can be serious because of the potential complications.  The most serious complications are heart attack and stroke.

Occasional atrial fibrillation can be serious. While many people do not experience or feel symptoms of arrhythmia, complications can result if the condition is left untreated. For example, stroke and heart failure, both life-threatening events, can occur.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.