Atrial fibrillation: Beyond drug therapies

Medications are the first treatment for atrial fibrillation, but if drugs don't do the job, there are other options.

Atrial fibrillation occurs when the heart's upper chambers (the atria) race or quiver instead of keeping a normal rhythm. The symptoms include lightheadedness, fatigue, and an erratic or racing heartbeat (palpitations). It's the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, affecting some 2.2 million Americans. Unlike ventricular fibrillation, a dysfunction of the heart's main pumping chambers, atrial fibrillation usually isn't immediately life-threatening. But as doctors learn more about it, they're seeing a greater need for treatment.

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