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Understanding Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most prevalent arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, increases the risk of blood clots, stroke and heart failure. By 2030, an estimated 12.1 million Americans will have AFib. At Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute, we're pioneering more effective treatments for AFib and stroke prevention.

Our multidisciplinary team of electrophysiologists, cardiologists, cardiovascular specialists, and surgeons works closely with each patient to understand their unique needs and develop a tailored treatment plan. We provide comprehensive evaluations, advanced treatment options, and ongoing support through our dedicated RN Program Coordinator.

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

AFib is a heart condition where the upper heart chambers beat irregularly and too fast due to abnormal electrical signals. This quivering (fibrillation) affects the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, potentially depriving the brain and organs of sufficient blood supply. AFib is a serious medical condition that worsens over time, causing irreversible heart damage and increasing the risk of blood clots and stroke.

Causes & Risk Factors

While the exact cause of AFib may be difficult to determine, there are certain risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it. These include:

  • Increased age
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid, lung or nerve conditions
  • Excessive caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Sleep apnea 
  • A history of heart attack, congestive heart failure, leaky valves, artery disease or inflammation near the heart


Some people may be asymptomatic, or don’t experience any noticeable symptoms of AFib, while others may experience one of more of the following: 

  • Chest pain
  • Rapid heart rate   
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness 
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lack of stamina and fatigue
  • Exercise intolerance

Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation

AFib can be detected through an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), which records the heart's electrical signals. A Holter monitor, worn for one or more days, can also detect AFib. Additionally, wearable technology like smartwatches may also help detect when someone is in AFib. 

Pulsed Field Ablation - Revolutionizing the Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Our commitment to exceptional patient care drives us to continuously invest in groundbreaking treatments. We're proud to be among the first healthcare systems in California to offer Pulsed Field Ablation, (PFA) a revolutionary approach to treating Atrial Fibrillation. This cutting-edge technology reflects our dedication to providing the best possible outcomes for our patients.

Atrial Fibrillation Treatment Options

Treatment for AFib can vary based on how long someone has had it, their symptoms, the underlying cause of the issue, and other considerations. Treatment options may include medications, therapies, or minimally-invasive catheter ablation procedures.

Drug Therapies 

Drug therapies for AFib can include Anticoagulants (blood thinners) and medications to control heart rate and restore normal rhythm. Anticoagulants like Coumadin and Pradaxa can help prevent blood clots that can cause stroke. Your doctor will recommend the most suitable medication based on your condition.

Ablation Procedures

Our heart experts specialize in many different types of ablation techniques to treat AFib, including:

Trust Your Heart to the Experts: Patient Testimonial Dr. Aryana

When Joyce went into atrial fibrillation, Dr. Arash Aryana of Mercy Medical Group was able to help.

Trust Your Heart to the Experts: Patient Testimonial Dr. O’Neill

Take a moment to listen to the amazing story of our patient, Edith and her journey back to a healthy heart with Dignity Health’s cardiology expert Dr. O’Neill.

Find a Doctor 

Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and a referral to an AFib specialist. Call (855) 623-2734 to find a doctor. Or use our Find a Heart Doctor tool to locate an Atrial Fibrillation specialist.

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Search our network of cardiologists in Sacramento and schedule your appointment today

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