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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.
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.
Atrial fibrillation is a medical emergency that occurs when the upper chambers of the heart beat erratically, quickly, and out of synch with the lower chambers. Because the heart doesn't pump blood well under these conditions, the body suffers from poor blood circulation. The complications that result from atrial fibrillation may be life threatening, though the condition itself isn't usually considered to be.
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.
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.