Advanced Life Support (ALS) Level 3 (VTQ)

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Atrial Fibrillation

Video 21 of 117
1 min 30 sec
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Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Risks, and Treatment

Understanding Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation, commonly encountered in both pre-hospital and hospital settings, is a distinct form of tachycardia characterized by disorganized electrical activity within the atria. Visually, it appears as though the atria are in a state of standstill, failing to contract as they should. This condition raises significant concerns regarding blood flow and clot formation, demanding our attention and vigilance.

Blood Flow Disruption

In atrial fibrillation, blood flows from the atria into the ventricles without coordinated atrial contractions. Approximately 70% of the blood manages to navigate through the atrioventricular valves under pressure. However, a crucial issue arises as around 30% of the blood remains trapped within the fibrillating atria, increasing the risk of clot formation.

Clot Formation and Stroke Risk

While blood typically moves smoothly from the atria to the ventricles, there is a chance that clots may be swept along this irregular path. These clots can eventually exit through the aorta and frequently ascend the carotid arteries, eventually reaching the brain. The consequence is a Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) or stroke, posing a severe and immediate threat to the patient's health.

Managing Atrial Fibrillation

Patient care for atrial fibrillation, particularly in a hospital setting, encompasses several crucial strategies aimed at mitigating the risk of stroke and promoting stable heart function:

  • Administration of calcium channel blockers like diltiazem to restore normal heart rhythm.
  • Use of beta blockers to control heart rate and maintain cardiac stability.
  • Initiation of anticoagulant therapies to prevent clot formation and reduce the risk of stroke.

By adopting these comprehensive treatment approaches, medical professionals can effectively manage atrial fibrillation, enhancing patient outcomes and minimizing the risk of stroke.