Sunday, December 11, 2005

atrial fibrillation

atrial fibrillation - Atrial fibrillation is a totally disorganized series of rapid unsystematic contractions of the upper heart chambers (atria). The atria beats chaotically at rates of 350 to 600 beats per minute. The ventricles respond to the atrial stimulus with an irregular rhythm. Some of the ventricular beats are so weak that they are ineffective in opening the aortic valve and propelling the blood. In the presence of mitral stenosis, thrombi may form affecting the lungs or periphery of the body. Atrial fibrillation may be transient or it may be chronic. Chronic atrial fibrillation is commonly associated with underlying heart disease such as coronary atherosclerotic heart disease, hypertension, pericarditis, and thyrotoxicosis. Other diseases that can be associated with atrial fibrillation include pulmonary embolism and chronic lung disease.
Symptoms of atrial fibrillation include heart flutter, anxiety, weakness, and dizziness. The treatment goal of atrial fibrillation is to attain a resting heart rate of 60 to 80 beats per minute or to restore sinus rhythm. Atrial fibrillation is usually treated medically with drugs such as digitalis, quinidine, beta-adrenergic blockers, or calcium-channel blockers. Sometimes anticoagulants are prescribed to prevent blood clots. Cardioversion, which is a method of electrical countershock, may be necessary in people who have persistent atrial fibrillation or recurrent embolization.
See also ARRHYTHMIAS, CARDIAC.
Phipps, W. J., et al. Medical Surgical Nursing. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.
Steinberg, F. U. Care of the Geriatric Patient. 6th ed. St. Louis: C. V. Mosby Co., 1983.

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