Atrial Fibrillation

Kennedy Westfall, Michael Wirick, Carolyn Mullins

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and rapid heart rate that causes poor blood flow to the body. The chambers of the heart do not work together but rather work irregularly and separately. Episodes of atrial fibrillation can come and go, or it can develop and stay, which would require treatment.

Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms. Those who do have symptoms may experience:

  • Palpitations
  • Weakness/Fatigue
  • Reduced ability to exercise
  • Lightheadedness/Dizziness/Confusion
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain

Case Study: Smith, John(age 40)

John Smith, a former athlete in high school and in college has recently experienced many health difficulties. John had felt these health difficulties after walking his dog. He experienced shortness of breath, palpitations, and chest pain. shortly after John went to his local clinic and consulted his doctor. After running some tests his doctor noted that John is experiencing Atrial Fibrillation. John asked why he never noticed this earlier in his life and the doctor told him that older men in their 40s usually experience the symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation.


After John Smith was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation, the doctor listed some goals for treatment to accomplish. These include heart rhythm control, heart rate control, blood clot prevention, and preventing heart failure and stroke. Treatment of AFib first uses a procedure called cardioversion that resets the heart to its regular rhythm. Following that, the doctor may prescribe beta and/or calcium blockers that slow the heart rate and can help improve symptoms. They do not 'cure' the rhythm and patients still require medication to prevent strokes while remaining in atrial fibrillation. Knowing this, John's doctor decided to start with cardioversion and prescribe an anti-arrhythmic medications to help prevent future episodes.


"Treatment and Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation." Treatment and Prevention of Atrial Fibrillation. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Mar. 2015. <>.

Mayo Clinic Staff. "Atrial Fibrillation." Definition. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Mar. 2015. <>.