At Memorial Hermann, affiliated physicians provide a broad range of heart arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation treatment options, from noninvasive treatments to device therapy to minimally invasive procedures.

Types of Treatments for Afib

Medications

Many medications are available to treat atrial fibrillation and other types of arrhythmia. In most cases, these medications have to be taken for the rest of the patient’s life.

Surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation

Physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann perform a wide range of surgical and minimally invasive procedures to treat patients with heart arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation, or AFib. Unlike traditional open heart surgery, minimally invasive surgeries are performed using small instruments through much smaller incisions, Minimally invasive surgeries, typically can be much less traumatic. Patients have been found to experience less pain and bleeding, lower risk of infection, shorter hospital stays and reduced recovery times.

  • Maze Procedure – The surgical maze procedure is performed by creating a pattern of scar tissue that works like a maze in a patients heart. Since scar tissue does not carry electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause atrial fibrillation.

Non-surgical Procedures for Atrial Fibrillation

Physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann perform two non-surgical heart rhythm treatments: heart ablation and cardioversion.

Heart Ablation

For arrhythmias caused by abnormal heart tissue, heart ablation, also known as catheter radiofrequency ablation, can be used to destroy the abnormal heart tissue. During the procedure, catheters (thin, flexible tubes) are threaded through the patient's blood vessels to reach the abnormal heart tissue. The cardiologist then uses a small cutter or radiofrequency energy to remove the abnormal tissue.

Cardioversion

To correct atrial fibrillation or reset the heart to its regular rhythm (sinus rhythm), physicians may perform a procedure called cardioversion using either medications or electricity.

Chemical Cardioversion

Medicines (anti-arrhythmics) are used to stop the heart's quivering and restore normal sinus rhythm. The medications help maintain sinus rhythm for at least one year in 50 percent to 65 percent of people. However, they can cause side effects such as nausea and fatigue, as well as some long-term risks. In rare cases, the medications may adversely affect heart rhythm.

Electrical Cardioversion

While under light anesthesia, a patient receives an electrical shock through paddles or patches on the chest. The shock stops the heart's electrical activity for a split second. When the heart's electrical activity resumes, the rhythm may be normal.

Cardioversion is not always effective. While it may successfully restore regular heart rhythm in more than 95 percent of patients, more than half of patients eventually go back into arrhythmia. In many instances, the patient must take anti-arrhythmic medications indefinitely.

Device Therapy for Atrial Fibrillation

Physicians affiliated with Memorial Hermann utilize implantable devices to treat patients suffering from atrial fibrillation (AFib).

Pacemaker

A pacemaker is a device, smaller than a matchbox, that is placed under the skin near the collarbone to help regulate a patient’s heartbeat. A wire extends from the pacemaker to the heart. If the pacemaker detects an abnormally slow heart rate (bradycardia) or the absence of a heartbeat, it emits electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to speed up or resume beating. A pacemaker is often implanted if medications to prevent arrhythmia or control the heart rate result in an excessively slow rate. A pacemaker may also be implanted after Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation.

WATCHMAN

Patients at Memorial Hermann have access to the innovative WATCHMAN treatment that reduces the risk of stroke caused by non-valvular Afib. The WATCHMAN is a small parachute-shaped device that permanently closes off the left atrial appendage, a site where clots can form and increase the risk of stroke. Implantation takes about an hour and once the device is implanted, it will not require replacement. In addition to reducing a patient’s risk of stroke, the WATCHMAN also eliminates the need for blood-thinning medications.

Are There Eligibility Requirements for WATCHMAN?

Yes. Your cardiologist and/or electrophysiologist will review the requirements with you to determine if you are a candidate for WATCHMAN. Listed below are criteria for WATCHMAN:

  • Do you have Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) not caused by heart valve problems (non-valvular AFib)?
  • Has your doctor recommended that you take a blood thinner for your AFib?
  • Can you take Warfarin but need an alternative to long term blood thinners for one of the reasons below?
  • You have a history of serious bleeding while taking blood thinners;
  • You have a lifestyle, occupation, or condition that puts you at risk for serious bleeding;
  • You are taking Warfarin and having trouble with your treatment plan, and a different type of blood thinner isn’t an option for you.
How Does WATCHMAN Work?

The WATCHMAN device fits into a part of your heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA). 90 percent of blood clots that come from the heart are formed in the LAA. WATCHMAN permanently closes off this part of your heart to keep those blood clots from escaping. Your doctor will explain the procedure to you during your visit.

Finding Treatment

To learn more about treatment options, our cardiologists, or treatment facilities please use our contact form or schedule an appointment with a Memorial Hermann Cardiologist online »

Contact Us

If you have questions regarding the Memorial Hermann Heart & Vascular Institute, our cardiologists, or treatment facilities, please use our contact form below or call (713) 222-2273 for more information.

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