What is atrial fibrillation (Afib) (AF) and what cardiovascular risk factors are thought to promote it?

Updated: Nov 18, 2019
  • Author: Lawrence Rosenthal, MD, PhD, FACC, FHRS; Chief Editor: Jeffrey N Rottman, MD  more...
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Answer

Atrial fibrillation (AF) has strong associations with other cardiovascular diseases, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease (CAD), valvular heart disease, diabetes mellitus, and hypertension. It is characterized by an irregular and often rapid heartbeat (see the first image below). The exact mechanisms by which cardiovascular risk factors predispose to AF are not understood fully but are under intense investigation. Catecholamine excess, hemodynamic stress, atrial ischemia, atrial inflammation, metabolic stress, and neurohumoral cascade activation are all purported to promote AF.

The image on the right is a reconstructed 3-dimensional image of the right atrium in a patient undergoing atrial fibrillation ablation. The figure on the left was created with a mapping catheter using Endocardial Solutions mapping technology. It represents the endocardial shell of the right atrium and is used as the template during left atrial ablation procedures.
Ventricular rate varies from 130-168 beats per min Ventricular rate varies from 130-168 beats per minute. Rhythm is irregularly irregular. P waves are not discernible.

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