Q: What Does Treating Afib Early Really Mean?

We typically don’t consider atrial fibrillation to be atrial fibrillation until it’s occurred more than once because one time could just end up being one time. But, once you’ve had more than a single episode of atrial fibrillation and it lasts for more than 30 seconds, you’ve gotten the label as having atrial fibrillation. And, if you have symptoms from your atrial fibrillation, and it’s clearly been diagnosed as atrial fibrillation, you are right then and there, potentially, a candidate for ablation.

Some people would elect to try a drug at that stage and see if a drug will suppress atrial fibrillation. Others are not willing to accept the risk because for some patients, depending on the other medications they’re on or their background, those drugs may not be acceptable or it may not be reasonable to try one of those drugs. Or patients may decide that ablation, after they’ve done the research, is a reasonable early option.

So, atrial fibrillation  is a progressive disease and atrial fibrillation, in many cases, becomes more frequent and the episodes become longer, and also, as we get older and we rely more on the function of our atrium, it can be more symptomatic. So someone may have had 10 years of atrial fibrillation in the first eight years they can put up with it, and the last two years it’s unbearable and they can’t exercise or even take a light walk. Typically, the earlier we can start to address someone’s atrial fibrillation the better, and that begins with seeing someone who’s a heart rhythm specialist early on in the process.

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