Atrial fibrillation (also called AF and AFib), the most common form of irregular heartbeat, affects more than 3 million people in the United States. It is most common in older adults, especially those with cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, heart failure and obesity.
AFib occurs when the electrical signals of your upper heart chambers (the atria) begin to misfire, causing erratic, uncoordinated pumping. This can lead to an increased chance of stroke and heart failure.
Because of this, you should seek accurate diagnosis and treatment as soon as you suspect a heart rhythm disorder. At Palo Alto Medical Foundation, we offer the full range of AFib care to reduce your risk, manage your symptoms and repair the problem. Our cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner helps our heart experts diagnose coronary artery disease and other heart conditions without surgery. As one of only a handful of such machines in the world, it provides a safe alternative to more invasive procedures, such as coronary angiography.
Here are some of the services we provide.
Cardioversion is a non-invasive, outpatient procedure that uses high energy electric shock to restore a normal heart rhythm. A doctor administers electricity through paddles or patches on the chest while the patient is under light anesthesia.
Antiarrhythmics and anticoagulants are the two drugs most commonly prescribed for patients with AFib. In some patients, antiarrhythmic drugs help control the heart rate to restore a normal, consistent rhythm. Anticoagulants (blood thinners) help prevent blood clots to reduce the risk of stroke.
Cardiac ablation is a minimally-invasive procedure that uses a catheter to locate and destroy (ablate) tiny areas that are interfering with the heart’s normal electrical impulses. In many people, this can restore a normal heart rhythm long-term.
Maze refers to a specific type of cardiac ablation that creates a pattern of scars (ablation lines) on the heart. This “maze” reroutes electrical impulses to let them travel normally to the heart. The procedure has an impressive success rate, eliminating AFib in 89 percent to 91 percent of patients according to recent studies.
The traditional Maze procedure is done during open heart surgery. However, Sutter Medical Center devised and perfected a minimally-invasive version of the procedure called the Totally Thoracoscopic Maze Procedure that uses small incisions and tiny instruments. For certain candidates, this approach can correct AFib while substantially reducing hospital stay and recovery time.
Pacemakers and Defibrillators
Our heart specialists use a variety of tools to keep the heart’s rhythm steady. A battery-powered pacemaker, installed in a short surgical procedure, helps keep the heart beating normally.
An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) detects rapid, irregular heartbeats and can send an electrical shock to the heart, returning the rhythm back to normal. We also offer wearable defibrillators for certain patients.