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Therapy methods for atrial fibrillation: medication, cardioversion, catheter ablation
According to experts, atrial fibrillation is the most common cardiac arrhythmia. About 1.8 million people suffer from the problem. Symptoms include shortness of breath, rising heat in the head, palpitations and a feeling of pressure in the chest. There is also an uncontrolled racing heart in the atria. In principle, however, the extent of the symptoms can vary widely, so caution is advised. Because although atrial fibrillation is not life-threatening, the disease can lead to a stroke - especially at an advanced age.
Risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age
Due to the cardiac arrhythmia, the atria of the heart can no longer contract properly. Less fluid is pumped into the blood vessels per heartbeat. The stagnant blood can lead to a clot, which is why the German Heart Foundation recommends anticoagulant drugs such as Marcumar or Falithrom. However, it is important "always weigh the risk of a stroke against the risk of bleeding," explains Thomas Meinertz, CEO of the German Heart Foundation.
The risk of atrial fibrillation increases exponentially with age, explains Professor Andreas Götte from the Atrial Fibrillation Network. Around four percent are currently affected in the age group of over 60 year olds. The percentage is between 20 and 25 percent for those over 80 years of age. Götte assumes that the number of people affected will triple in the next 20 years. To one
Measure blood coagulation values for dosing medication independently. The test is carried out by a doctor or pharmacist. After training, patients can also measure their blood coagulation values independently. Transportable electronic devices are available for this purpose, which determine the current coagulation value when loaded with batteries. Since this is subject to constant fluctuations due to diet or stress, this undertaking is worthwhile. Affected people can then adjust the dosage of their medication independently.
The test is carried out using the measuring device and a test strip. Using a small needle, those affected can take a drop of blood from their fingertips, which is placed on the test strip and placed in the device for testing. This measures the value and reports the result on a digital display, the entire process usually takes around one minute. All measurement results and dosage changes are logged and regularly checked by a doctor.
Medications not free from side effects Anticoagulant medications are not free from side effects. For example, Macumar increases the risk of minor bleeding with bruising. They are usually harmless, but in individual cases they can pose a serious health risk. Bleeding in the urinary tract or stomach is particularly critical. In order not to endanger the lives of those affected, doctors must take appropriate countermeasures immediately.
Alternative therapy methods for atrial fibrillation
An alternative therapy for atrial fibrillation is cardioversion, a mild electric shock with short anesthesia. It serves to bring the heartbeat back to the usual rhythm. However, doctors must first ensure that there is no blood clot. The heart is examined using ultrasound. As a rule, it is possible to bring the heart back into the so-called sync rhythm. However, it often happens that atrial fibrillation recurs after some time.
If medication and cardioversion do not produce the desired result, catheter ablation is an option. The so-called “obliteration” takes place through a plastic tube, called “catheter” in specialist circles, which is advanced through the vena cava from the groin to the heart. The doctor then clears a very specific area of the atrium through frequency current or cold. The success rate is 60 to 80 percent after one year, and even 90 percent after repetition. (lb)