Harvard Heart Letter

New guidelines update treatment of atrial fibrillation

Changes include adding new clot-preventing drugs and using less aspirin.

If you have atrial fibrillation (also called afib), your doctor may recommend changes to your treatment based on recently updated guidelines for managing this common heart disorder.

Atrial fibrillation—a rapid quivering in your heart's upper chambers (atria)—can cause dizziness, shortness of breath, and fatigue. It also interferes with the atria's ability to pump blood to the lower chambers, causing blood to pool in the atria. As blood sits, it can form clots. If such a clot gets into the bloodstream and blocks a vessel supplying your brain, a stroke may occur. As a result, a major focus of afib treatment is preventing those clots, using anticoagulant drugs. Until just a few years ago, the only option for this clot prevention was warfarin (Coumadin).

To continue reading this article, you must login.
  • Research health conditions
  • Check your symptoms
  • Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
  • Find the best treatments and procedures for you
  • Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
Learn more about the many benefits and features of joining Harvard Health Online »