is where the upper chambers of the heart are contracting in a disorganized manner. Because of this, the initiation of the normal/regular heart rhythm is altered and the heart beats at irregular intervals. There are two main potential consequences of this.
First, it is possible to have atrial fibrillation with "rapid ventricular response." This means that the heart rate
is very fast. If the heart rate is fast enough, then the chambers do not have enough time to fill with blood effectively between beats, and the pump function is compromised. Someone who has low blood pressure and poor blood flow to the body as a result of high heart rate with atrial fibrillation needs urgent intervention.
For people who have just started to fibrillate, the treatment is electrical cardioversion
. Cardioversion is where an electric jolt is used to temporarily stun the heart muscle long enough that it can restart in a coordintated manner. For many patients, this stops the fibrillation behavior and a normal rhythm is restored.
For people who have long-standing irregular rhythm, or an irregular rhythm of unknown duration, it may be best to use medication that will slow the heart rate, even if it doesn't regularize the rhythm. The reason for this is that it is possible for people in A-fib to form clots in the atria of the heart, and these clots can be ejected into the systemic circulation
once the heart rhythm regularizes. This clotting problem is the second of the two main problems that I mentioned at the beginning.
A-fib creates flow disturbance in the blood stream as it goes through the heart, and this can create clots. People who are found to be in A-fib and who have been either that way chronically or for an unknown time period are first evaluated with an echocardiogram
) to look for clots. For people who are in A-fib long term, the treatment is rate control and anti-coagulation medicine to help prevent high heart rate and clots forming inside the heart.
In some cases, the A-fib is a primary issue. For these patients, the A-fib itself requires treatment and monitoring. For other patients, however, the A-fib is a result of other heart issues which require diagnosis and management.
It is impossible to comment intelligently on how your mother is going to do, based on any information we can chat about on the internet. Far too many factors go into that type of assessment. I encourage you to approach her physicians with your questions, and if you don't understand what they say, then ask them to explain further. It is part of our jobs as doctors to be able to explain what is happening and why we recommend what we are doing as the treatment plan.
I hope that helps. If there are specific questions, please feel free to contact me.