Atrial Fibrillation

Hybrid catheter ablation offers people with AFib faster recovery times and fewer complications.

Atrial Fibrillation

Overview

What Is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation, also known as AF or AFib, is a type of rapid, irregular heartbeat. It occurs when a storm of electrical impulses spreads through your heart. This “storm” causes the chambers of the heart (atria) to quiver or contract rapidly.

When your heartbeat becomes irregular or racing, our experts can help restore your heart rhythm. We were the first in the world to offer 4–D ultrasound technology allowing cardiologists to see deeper into the structures of the heart.

Our AFib Centers

Our Center for Advanced Atrial Fibrillation Therapies at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee is the only center in Wisconsin – and one of only a few nationwide – that offers minimally invasive hybrid procedures to correct the heart rhythm of people living with complex atrial fibrillation (AFib).

If you have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, we can help you manage your condition with a multidisciplinary, holistic approach at innovative AFib centers across Wisconsin.

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center
2900 W. Oklahoma Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53215
414-646-8989

Aurora BayCare Medical Center
2845 Greenbrier Rd.
Green Bay, WI 54311
920-288-8311

Aurora Medical Center in Grafton
975 Port Washington Rd.
Grafton, WI 53024
262-329-AFIB (2342)

Aurora Medical Center in Kenosha
10400 75th St.
Kenosha, WI 53142
262-948-6630

Aurora Medical Center in Oshkosh
855 N. Westhaven Dr.
Oshkosh, WI 54904
920-456-6000

Aurora Medical Center in Summit
36500 Aurora Dr.
Summit, WI 53066
262-434-5000

Patients with advanced and complex AFib may be referred to:

Center for Advanced Atrial Fibrillation Therapies
2801 W. Kinnickinnic River Pkwy.
St. Luke's Physician Office Building, Suite 777
Milwaukee, WI 53215

Your AFib center physician will work together with a team of primary care physicians, cardiologists or electrophysiologists (and, in some cases, a cardiac surgeon) to identify the cause of your heart rhythm disorder and implement a comprehensive plan of care. We identify risk factors and design and implement a plan for reducing recurrences of AFib and its complications.

We offer innovative treatment options such as those for patients 75 years or older with a history of bleeding or frequent falls. In such cases, we offer alternative treatment options that will not increase the risk of bleeding usually associated with the use of a blood thinner prescribed for stroke prevention.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Feeling your heart fluttering, or feeling chest pain, can be scary. Many times, these sensations don’t indicate anything serious. But when they come back, or when they’re severe, it’s a good idea to have a doctor evaluate your health.

Most people experience AFib as one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue and weakness, especially with physical exertion
  • Heart palpitations (feeling that your heart is skipping a beat or beating too hard or fast)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swelling in your feet

For some people, AFib may only last a short time, but it may come back over and over. For others, it can become permanent. This is known as chronic atrial fibrillation.

Causes & Complications

Atrial Fibrillation: Causes & Complications

AFib becomes more common as people age. Additionally, risk factors for AFib include:

AFib can lead to other health issues if it isn’t treated. These complications can include:

  • Blood clots: The irregular heart rhythm of AFib can cause blood clots to form, which can lead to a stroke.
  • Heart failure: AFib can weaken the lower chambers of your heart. This weakening can result in heart failure and other conditions.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation

Most people first notice atrial fibrillation as a fluttering sensation in the chest. Heart problems can be serious, so if you suspect a heart issue, it is important to talk with your doctor.

Other times, a doctor detects AFib when you’re receiving other tests or treatment.

Either way, to diagnose AFib and develop the best treatment for you, our centers deliver heart and vascular testing and diagnosis, including services such as:

  • Physical exams: We will listen to your heart with a stethoscope to check for a heart murmur or other sign of an irregular heartbeat.
  • Laboratory testing: We can check your electrolyte levels or thyroid hormone levels to look for a cause of your AFib.
  • Chest X–ray: We may order a chest X–ray to examine the structure of your heart and lungs.
  • Other diagnostic tests: Several tests can help us check the function of your heart. These may include:
    • Heart ultrasound
    • Electrocardiograph testing (EKG)
    • Holter monitoring, which sends a monitor home with you for 24 to 48 hours, so we can see how your heart works throughout the course of a normal day
    • Event monitoring, which records heart rhythms for about a month

Treatment

Individualized Care for Atrial Fibrillation

The treatment for AFib depends on how often you have symptoms, the severity of symptoms and whether you already have heart disease. People who have AFib but don’t have symptoms may still need treatment.

Depending on the cause of the AFib, we may prescribe one or more treatments including:

  • Lifestyle changes: These may include diet, exercise, calming activities and treatment of sleep apnea.
  • Individualized medication management: Medications that treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure or thyroid disease may help reduce risk for AFib. Additional medications for rate or rhythm control (antiarrhythmics) and stroke prevention (oral anticoagulants) may be needed.
  • Multidisciplinary risk reduction programs: Comprehensive programs to better manage your AFib.
  • Technological advances: The latest available treatments for AFib.
  • Clinical trials: Medications or devices to improve treatment and prevention.
  • Cardioversion: Electrical cardioversion is a quick procedure, performed under anesthesia, to return the heartbeat to a normal rhythm using electric shock. People usually go home 1 or 2 hours after the procedure.
  • Catheter ablation: For patients who have repeated episodes of atrial fibrillation causing symptoms, catheter-based ablation procedures can control the rhythm. 
  • Left atrial appendage closure devices: These devices help with stroke reduction if you can’t take blood thinners (anticoagulants) or they cause bleeding problems. Left atrial appendage closure devices are implanted in the left upper chamber of the heart using a catheter.
  • Combined catheter and surgical ablation: Our physicians are some of the nation’s leading experts in this minimally invasive hybrid ablation procedure that combines catheter-based ablation with a minimally invasive surgical approach for people with difficult to control AFib. 
  • New treatments: We allow access to innovative approaches to management of AFib and prevention of complications.
  • AFib support groups and education

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