Atrial fibrillation occurs when rapid, disorganized electrical signals cause the
heart’s two upper chambers (the atria) to contract very quickly and irregularly
(fibrillate). Atrial fibrillation causes blood to gather in the atria because it
is not pumping completely into the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart).
Atrial fibrillation, also known as "AFib", is the most common condition associated
with an abnormal rate or rhythm of the heartbeat (arrhythmia). More than 2.3 million
people in the United States are affected by atrial fibrillation, and more than 160,000
new cases are diagnosed every year. Untreated, atrial fibrillation can raise the
risk of stroke more than five-fold and has also been shown to double the risk of
There are three main types of atrial fibrillation:
- Paroxysmal atrial fibrillation alternates back and forth between
normal and abnormal rhythms
- Permanent atrial fibrillation abnormal rhythms are present all
of the time
- Persistent atrial fibrillation abnormal rhythms last longer than
one week, or require a small delivery of electrical energy or medications to reset
the heart back to a normal rhythm (sinus)
The UF Health Cardiovascular Center in Jacksonville is uniquely qualified to diagnose
and treat atrial fibrillation with access to the latest research and technologies
that help control the condition as quickly as possible, so patients can get back
to a full, healthy life.
Video: About Atrial Fibrillation
Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation
Some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t experience any symptoms. Those who
do have symptoms may experience one or more of the following:
- Chest pain
- Heart palpitations
- Irregular heartbeat
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble exercising
- Weakness or fatigue
Some patients who experience atrial fibrillation over a long period of time may
become used to feeling fatigued and not notice symptoms.
There are a number of risk factors associated with atrial fibrillation. Patients
with one or more of the following conditions have a much higher chance of developing
atrial fibrillation than the general population:
- Atherosclerotic heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Heart valve disease
- High blood pressure
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Thyroid problems
Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation
When patients come to the UF Health Cardiovascular Center, our heart team experts
will discuss their symptoms and make an assessment. If our experts suspect a patient
may have atrial fibrillation, we may suggest one or more of the following tests:
- A blood test can help rule out a thyroid problem or other substances
in the blood that could be causing the atrial fibrillation.
- A chest X-ray can help determine if a patient has another condition
in the lungs that could be causing symptoms.
- An echocardiogram provides video images of the heart in motion
so a doctor can determine if a patient has underlying structural heart disease.
- An electrocardiogram (ECG) is the primary method for diagnosing
atrial fibrillation. It measures the activity of the heart.
- A Holter monitor assesses the heart’s activity over a longer period
of time (usually at least 24 hours) to give doctors a fuller picture of the heart’s
Once our heart team experts have diagnosed a condition, we will work with the patient
to develop an individualized treatment plan.
Treatment of Atrial Fibrillation
If a patient has atrial fibrillation, symptoms may come and go over time, or may
be persistent. A Cardiologist will discuss the symptoms with the patient so he or
she can determine proper treatment based on a patient’s unique needs. Treatment
will depend on:
- How long a patient has had atrial fibrillation
- Risk factors which may be present for stroke
- Severity of your symptoms
- The underlying cause of the atrial fibrillation
In general, the goals of treatment of this condition are to reset the rhythm of
the heart, control the heart rate and prevent blood clots. Our heart team experts
tailor a specific therapy on an individual basis, offering many advanced and state-of-the-art
The majority of patients with atrial fibrillation need some type of anti-coagulant
(“blood thinner”) to lower their risk of stroke. Patients who are older and have
coexisting cardiac or vascular conditions are at a higher risk. Our heart team experts
will be able to accurately determine the level of this risk and prescribe an appropriate
Additional state-of-the-art therapies include:
Direct-current cardioversion (DCCV) uses electric shock to momentarily
stop — and then restart — the heart’s activity. This shock is delivered
via paddles or patches on the chest while patients are sedated.
Drug-induced cardioversion uses medications known as anti-arrhythmics
to help correct a heartbeat. These medications may be delivered orally (by mouth)
or intravenously (by vein).
Convergent ablation (also known as a hybrid procedure), in which
a cardiothoracic surgeon first uses a small incision in the chest to deliver heat
(radiofrequency energy) and a cardiologist then performs a standard radiofrequency
catheter ablation to alter heart tissue, stopping the arrhythmia. This procedure
is best used for patients who have persistent atrial fibrillation.
Cryothermal balloon ablation, which uses a cold temperature balloon
energy to alter heart tissue, stopping the arrhythmia.
Minimally invasive surgical ablation (also known as a mini-maze
procedure), which uses small incisions in the chest to reach the heart
with an ablation device to alter the heart tissue.
Left atrial appendage closure, during which a closure device is
introduced through a large vein in the leg and delivered to the heart to close the
left atrial appendage. Doing so can help reduce the risk of stroke and a patient
may also no longer need to take long term blood thinning anticoagulant medications.
Open surgical (maze) procedures, during which the chest cavity
is opened to reach the heart and a number of incisions are made on the left and
right atria to form scar tissue. The scar tissue conducts electricity, allowing
for the interruption of abnormal rhythms.
Pacemaker (PPM) implantation and AV nodal ablation, which places
a small device in the chest or abdomen to help control heart rhythms with low-energy
electrical pulses after a catheter is passed into the blood vessels and radiofrequency
energy is delivered to the heart tissue that allows impulses to transfer from the
top of the heart to the lower chambers.
Radiofrequency catheter ablation, a procedure that uses a catheter
in the blood vessels to reach the heart and uses a high-frequency radio pulse to
generate heat, stopping the arrhythmia.
Why Choose UF Health Jacksonville for Treatment
The UF Health Cardiovascular Center includes internationally recognized heart team
experts who are leaders in cardiac care, research and education. Our cardiologists
participate in numerous national and international
clinical trials and offer accredited fellowship training programs in
Our Comprehensive Atrial Fibrillation Program individualizes treatment for each
patient based on their type of atrial fibrillation. Working together with Cardiothoracic
surgeons, our cardiologists offer a variety of medications and treatment options
which can increase quality of life and minimize risk of stroke.
These heart team experts provide services at the UF Health
Cardiovascular Center – Jacksonville, which has fully integrated,
comprehensive heart programs, including a coronary
interventional program, nuclear program, electrophysiology
program, non-invasive program
and peripheral interventional program.
UF Health Jacksonville is renowned for treating patients with complex diseases and
being on the forefront of advancing the science of interventional cardiology. Using
the most sophisticated equipment available, the center offers state-of-the-art diagnostic,
therapeutic and rehabilitative cardiac services. Many leading-edge interventional
therapies are offered in Northeast Florida only at the UF Health Cardiovascular
Center – Jacksonville.
Jacksonville Atrial Fibrillation Specialists
Atrial Fibrillation Program Locations
201 B Lakeshore Point
St. Marys, GA 31558
Ambulatory Care Center, 5th Floor
655 West 8th Street
Jacksonville, FL 32209
15255 Max Leggett Parkway
Jacksonville, FL 32218