Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation causes a rapid, disorganized and uncoordinated twitching of atrial musculature.

It is the most common dysrhythmia to cause for patients so seek medical attention.

It may start and stop suddenly.

It may occur for a very short time period of time (paroxymal) or may be chronic.

Etiology:

  • advanced age
  • valvular disease
  • coronary artery disease
  • hypertension
  • cardiopathy (disease of the heart muscle)
  • hyperthyroidism
  • pulmonary disease
  • acute moderate to heavy ingestion of alcohol (holiday heart syndrome)
  • aftermath of open heart surgery
  • May also occur in individuals with no underlying pathophysiology

Physiology/Biology:

Rapid atrial response reduces time for ventricular filling. This results in a smaller stroke volume.

This rhythm causes the atria and ventricle to contract at different times, the atrial kick (the last part of diastole and ventricular filling, which accounts for 25% to 30% of the cardiac output) is also lost.

Symptoms:

  • irregular palpitations
  • fatigue
  • malaise

Treatment:

Depends on cause, duration of symptoms, and comorbidities. Medications may be used to stabilize heart rhythum or prevent recurrence of fibrillations.

In many cases atrial firillation converts to sinus rhythum with in 24 hours without treatment.

 

Bare, Brenda, Day, Rene, A, Paul, Pauline, Smeltzer, Suzanne, C, and Williams, Bev. 2007. Textbook of Medical-Surgical Nursing. 1st Candaian ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Philadelphia. p. 695-696

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