The Risk of Stroke in AFib Patients
There is an almost 5-fold increase in stroke risk for patient suffering from AFib. The heart has a small outpouching in the left atrium known as the left atrial appendage (LAA). The LAA serves no apparent important purpose, much like the appendix in the colon. However, when a patient goes into AFib, the abnormal and irregular heart rhythm can cause poor contraction of the heart muscle. This, in-turn, can cause blood to pool within the LAA. The pooled blood then begins to clot. If a blood clot breaks away and enters the cardiovascular system, traveling up to the brain, this can result in stroke.
As a result of this stroke risk, we now take atrial fibrillation very seriously, much more so than even a couple decades ago, when we had a lesser understanding of its wide-reaching effects.
Once your electrophysiologist diagnoses AFib, the next step is to begin treatment, which may include lifestyle change, medical therapy including anticoagulants and anti-arrhythmic medication and minimally invasive procedures to potentially permanently correct the irregular heartbeat such as cardiac catheter RF ablation or cardiac cryoablation.
At consultation, you will discuss which course of treatment is best for your particular situation, but ultimately all of these options are very successful with few major complications.