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Is anticoagulants the reason for atrial fibrillation?

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Practicing since : 2002
Answered : 2397 Questions
Hi. I take warfarin and a betablocker as I have periods of Atrial fibrulation. These last up to 12 hours and occur every few days, the usual symptoms being a fluttering and irregular heartbeat, a catch in my throat, some breathlessness, shaky legs and loss of energy. I am due to have a hernia operation tomorrow, so have not taken warfarin for a week as instructed by my surgeon. However, for the past 8 hours I have had AF quite strongly, and am worried that I'm an immediate risk of another TIA or stroke, as my blood is presumably more likely to clot than usual. Should I be worried? What do you advise please.
Posted Wed, 25 Apr 2012 in Heart Rate and Rhythm Disorders
Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 2 hours later
Hi XXXXXXX and thanks for your query,

Your fibrillation is controlled by the beta blocker while the warfarin basically diminishes the risk of stroke related to your atrial fibrillation as you well know.

My first question is - was there anything that might have contributed to your current rapid heart rate such as caffeine or alcohol intake, stress or something else other than your normal daily activities. Next I wonder when the last time you took the beta blocker was? Are you able to take your pulse?

I would say if your pulse is above 110 beats per minute - it is generally something about which you should touch base with your physician. In addition, if you are symptomatic - short of breath, chest pains dizziness etc. you should proceed to the local emergency room for an evaluation. It is possible the dose of your beta blocker may need to be adjusted.

I hope this has been helpful to you in this situation XXXXXXX and I await any additional information you can provide in helping to determine the acuity of the situation.

Best regards,

Dr. Robert Galamaga
Above answer was peer-reviewed by
Follow-up: Is anticoagulants the reason for atrial fibrillation? 4 hours later
Thankyou, doctor. You asked if there was a trigger event - and I'm afraid there generally is not, although I have noticed both stress and a heavy meal may perhaps initiate a period of af.

In this case I was concerned that my av after a period of abstinence from warfarin might put me at an increased risk of a Tia or stroke.

Since posting my original message I have attended my local a&e hospital. They diagnosed rapid af (150b/m). this didn't respond to additional beta-blocker, so eventually they also administered 500mg of a drug that sounded like 'digroxin' to slow my pulse: an ECG taken about half an hour later showed no sign at all of af.

They advised me to see my cardiologist (actually, I don't have one currently) and to proceed as planned with the hernia operation later today.

I would appreciate your thoughts. How critical is my position? What questions do I need to ask? Does af typically just start and stop?


Answered by Dr. Robert Galamaga 10 hours later

I appreciate your concern regarding the fibrillation and I am very glad you went in for an evaluation. I suspect they gave you a 0.5 mg loading dose of the digoxin. Sometimes we have to use more than one class of medications to address irregular rhythms which is currently the case for you. I am wondering if you have seen an electrophysiologist - a cardiologist who specializes in managing rhythm disturbances. They could consider an ablation procedure where they use a catheter to essentially correct the electrical short circuit which is causing your fibrillation. I am not saying you are definitely a candidate for this but a discussion would certainly not hurt.

Your situation is not critical - we are very good nowadays at treating fibrillation and minimizing risk of things such as stroke. The fib can start and stop - not an uncommon thing. We refer to this as paroxysmal atrial fibrillation.

As for questions to ask - I would explore the electrophysiology consultation and see if your cardiologist thinks that is worthwhile. I am sure your operation will go fine and that you will continue to enjoy optimal health in the future. The fibrillation is something we can certainly manage along with your excellent compliance with medications and followup visits.

If you have additional concerns regarding this, I am certainly available.

Wish you a good health.

Above answer was peer-reviewed by
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