Heart & Vascular:

Atrial Fibrillation

With sites at Emory University Hospital, Emory University Hospital Midtown and Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, Emory’s Heart & Vascular Center has one of the few truly comprehensive atrial fibrillation treatment programs of its kind in the Southeast Region.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common irregular heart rhythm in the United States. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), about two million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation. This irregular heart rhythm results when multiple circuits of disorganized electrical activity in the top chambers of the heart (the atria) replace the organized electrical activity that is normally generated by the heart. The result is quivering of the atria instead of regular heartbeats.

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

  • Palpitations
  • Chest Pain
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Weakness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Shortness of breath

Only a few years ago, people suffering from this common heart arrhythmia were told they would probably have to live with the problem. Today, however, an increasing number of people with atrial fibrillation can now be treated and cured, thanks to innovative therapies and procedures such as cardiac ablation, available through The Emory Heart & Vascular Center's Atrial Fibrillation Program.

Although not directly life threatening, atrial fibrillation often produces a fast, irregular, and ineffective heart rhythm that can cause a variety of symptoms. For many years, atrial fibrillation was thought to be a harmless condition, but it is now known that A- Fib can contribute to additional heart problems over time, including heart failure. Most seriously, it raises the risk of stroke and atrial fibrillation patients are often placed on blood thinners along with other heart medications.

Causes of Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib)

The most common causes of Atrial Fibrillation are: 

  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart valve disease
  • Heart surgery
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Heart failure
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Pulmonary embolism

(Less common causes of A-Fib include hyperthyroidism, pericarditis and viral infections.)

In at least ten percent of cases, no underlying heart disease is found. In these cases, atrial fibrillation may be related to alcohol or excessive caffeine use, stress, certain drugs, electrolyte or metabolic imbalances, or severe infections. In some cases, no cause can be found. Of note, the risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, particularly after age 60.

"Atrial fibrillation is by far the most common sustained arrhythmia we see and it creates a tremendous amount of symptoms and disability in patients," says Emory Heart & Vascular Center electrophysiologist Angel Leon, MD, Director of Cardiology at Emory University Hospital Midtown. "By now being able to treat atrial fibrillation and potentially cure it, we can not only improve the quality of life for many patients, but reduce the number of medications they have to take and reduce trips to the hospital."

Fibrillation Services and Procedures

Patients who seek treatment for A-Fib at Emory have access to physicians and nurses who are experienced in a wide variety of tests and treatments, including:

  • Coumadin Clinic (AMS) blood-thinner management
  • Arrhythmia Remote Monitoring
  • In-patient and out-patient educational support
  • Medical management
  • Catheter ablation procedures using state-of-the-art mapping technology
  • Surgical procedures, including minimally-invasive procedures

To make a new patient appointment with one of Emory’s Cardiac Electrophysiologists, call 404-778-7777.