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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Medical Management for Atrial Fibrillation

The first line of therapy for patients with atrial fibrillation is medical management. At Northwestern Memorial, we use a three-part approach:

  • Control the heart rate during episodes of atrial fibrillation
  • Reduce the risk of stroke
  • Control the rhythm of the heart when necessary

If medical management is not successful, our team of nationally recognized cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, nurses and other specialists will collaborate to determine which treatment option should be tried next.

Heart Rate Control for Atrial Fibrillation

Slowing down and controlling the heart rate during episodes of atrial fibrillation can significantly improve symptoms related to atrial fibrillation. To control heart rate, we use medications including beta-blockers, calcium blockers and digoxin.

In rare instances, we need to control heart rate by severing communication between the top and bottom portions of a patient’s heart. In those instances, a pacemaker makes this process possible.

Stroke Prevention for Atrial Fibrillation

Many patients with atrial fibrillation need powerful medications to prevent episodes of stroke because they have additional risk factors. We may prescribe oral blood thinners to patients with a significant risk for stroke. In patients with less risk, aspirin or heparin may be effective. (For some patients, devices or surgery that may eliminate the source of stroke might be considered.)

Heart Rhythm Control for Atrial Fibrillation

By maintaining the heart rhythm in its normal state—sinus rhythm—we can prevent episodes of atrial fibrillation. Medications called antiarrhythmic drugs help control heart rhythm. When medication isn’t successful, we offer more invasive therapies including catheter ablation and surgery.

Contact Us Today

For more information regarding atrial fibrillation, please call the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute at 312-694-AFIB (2342) and ask to speak with one of our dedicated atrial fibrillation nurses. Jane Kruse and Mary Navarrete can provide information, answer questions and assist you with treatment options that best fit your needs. You can also request a first-time appointment online.

Clinical Trials and Quality Ratings

For more information regarding clinical trials related to atrial fibrillation, please visit the Clinical Trials Unit of Northwestern, send an email or call 312-926-4000.

Our quality ratings provide detailed information about data we have collected about our healthcare performance. View our quality ratings related to atrial fibrillation.

Last UpdateApril 18, 2013