- Are all arrhythmias the same?
There are many types of arrhythmias. Arrhythmia means an alteration in the rhythm. The heart can either beat faster (tachycardia) or beat slower (bradycardia). There are also many types of arrhythmia according to whether they affect the ventricle or the atrium, and whether they are permanent or occasional. Some can be severe and others can be completely benign.
The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation. When atrial fibrillation happens only on occasions, it is called paroxysmal. When the arrhythmia is constant without a normal rhythm it is called persistent. These two are non-exclusive, the first type may lead to the second.
- Am I more likely to have a heart attack?
Having atrial fibrillation is not a risk factor for having a heart attack. Even so, the causes of a heart attack and of atrial fibrillation can be the same (high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, etc.). All these factors increase the risk of having a heart attack or having an arrhythmia.
- Am I more likely to have an embolism?
Yes, a patient with atrial fibrillation is 5 times more at risk of having an embolism. Patients must be careful and if symptoms of a stroke are detected (weakness of the limbs, trouble speaking or disorientation) they should call 112.
- Am I more likely to go into cardiac arrest?
Atrial fibrillation is a relatively benign arrhythmia that does not entail a risk of going into cardiac arrest in itself, only in exceptional situations.
- What long term complications can be caused by this condition?
There may be symptoms such as palpitations, general discomfort, uneasy stomach or tiredness, among others. There is also a higher risk of having a stroke and patients should be careful. Last of all, an arrhythmia that causes a very rapid heart rate during a long period of time (some months) can cause a weakening of the heart. Click here for more information.
- Is it genetic?
Atrial fibrillation is not genetic but, in general, if the mother or father have atrial fibrillation the child has a higher risk of having it. It is not a direct association.
- Will the surgery (ablation) cure me?
The ablation does not ensure a 100% cure. After an operation, it is possible that the patient will be cured forever, or for them to have occasional symptoms. It will depend on each case. Even so, after about a year, around 70% of the people who undergo surgery don’t have arrhythmia.
- What is the success rate of the surgery (ablation)?
The success of the surgery depends on various factors such as how affected the heart is already by the arrhythmia, how long it has been going on, how long the patient has been without treatment or how aggressive the arrhythmia is, among others.
The success rate, meaning the disappearance of the arrhythmia, is around 70% after one year. When the arrhythmia is more aggressive, the disappearance rate is around 40-50%. Sometimes the arrhythmia will reappear but the symptoms and discomfort are greatly reduced.
- What complications are involved in the surgery (ablation)?
As in any other procedure, the surgery has its risks, the most frequent of which is related to the puncture in the leg: to carry out the operation, one or two catheters are inserted into the leg and pushed up to the heart. This puncture can cause a local hematoma or bruise. Very rarely less than 1%) there can be other specific complications, such as an embolism or perforation. The mortality rate associated to these complications is under 1 out of every 1000.
- Where can I find more information?