Harvard Heart Letter

New techniques for treating atrial fibrillation

New devices and treatments can help prevent irregular atrial heart rhythms and related risks.

When your heart is pumping well, the four chambers contract and relax in a rhythmic, coordinated manner. However, a malfunction in the heart's internal electrical system can disrupt the normal beating sequence. As a result, the two upper chambers, the atria, can go into a fast, irregular quiver known as atrial fibrillation, or "afib."

In some people, episodes of atrial fibrillation cause distressing symptoms such as strong heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pressure. Others have few overt symptoms but suffer from vague feelings of fatigue and weakness. Either way, untreated atrial fibrillation is a major risk factor for stroke.

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