Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is a form of heart arrhythmia, the signs and symptoms can be dangerous, it can lead to a stroke and you may not even know it. Marcie Fraser has more.

Atrial fibrillation, or afib, is the most common arrhythmia cardiologist deal with. It's when the upper chambers of your heart aren't working so well, which sets off a host of symptoms.

"Most people will feel a sudden onset of shortness breath, they feel heart racing in irregular manner and some people get light headed and dizzy and then black out when they switch from normal rhythm to afib," said cardiologist Dr. Andrij Baran.

The causes of afib include high blood pressure, a heart valve that is diseased, leaky or blocked. Patients who are in afib need to have the heart's rhythm reset with what's called a cardioversion and in order to do that, patients are placed on blood thinners, admitted to the hospital and given anesthesia.

Baran said, "While they are out, we deliver an electric a shock to heart, like you see in the movies, but with slightly different paddles and that restores heart to normal rhythm 90 percent of time.”

Some patients have only have one afib episode their entire life, but other patients like Michael Hall, aren't as lucky. He's had so many, he needed a procedure called an ablation.

"Ablation procedure is you slide a catheter, a long plastic tube in to the heart through a vein in the leg and you find the source of the afib and once you find it, you basically cook it and once you burn the source, the natural pace maker of the heart can run the show without interference from the cells trying to take over," Baran said.

Left untreated, afib takes a toll on the body.

Baran said, "Stroke, congestive heart failure, which is basically fluid backed up in your lungs because this thing is going so fast."

While afib is not a heart attack or a stroke, but it could cause both. And just seven months ago, Michael Hall had a pacemaker put in and hasn't had a single episode since.

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