If you or someone you know is living with atrial fibrillation, or AFib, OHSU can help. Our Atrial Fibrillation Program gives you the resources you need to manage your health. We bring together medical knowledge and a holistic approach to help you maintain your wellness.
Your care team
Your AFib Program team works with your primary care provider. The team includes:
- A doctor who specializes in heart rhythm problems
- A physician assistant or nurse practitioner who treats heart rhythm problems
- Registered nurses
- Medical assistants
- Other health care providers, such as a sleep specialist and nutrition specialist
Planning your care
At your appointment, we will examine you and talk about:
- Your AFib and the results of any tests.
- Your personal and health care goals.
- Your risk of complications, or problems, from AFib, such as a stroke.
Finally, we work together to develop a treatment plan.
Connecting with our program
Having AFib increases your risk of stroke, heart failure and other serious health conditions. With clinics around the state, the OHSU Atrial Fibrillation Program offers care near your home.
We connect you and your primary care provider to:
- OHSU’s heart rhythm specialists, including doctors, physician assistants and nurses.
- Sleep specialists, for treatment of sleep apnea.
- Nutritionists to help you control diabetes, high blood pressure and other risk factors.
- The OHSU Bariatric Service for weight loss surgery, if needed.
We can also help you become more aware of your environment and response to it. Some ways to do this are by meditating, learning self-awareness and developing spiritual connections. Research shows that mindfulness can help relieve stress and anxiety that affect your health.
Becoming a patient
You may need a health care provider to refer you to the Atrial Fibrillation Program, or you may be able to make an appointment without a referral. This usually depends on your insurance.
Our team members are specialists, and some insurance plans require a referral to see a specialist; others do not. Check your insurance plan details or call the insurance company to learn more.
We will need your medical records showing that you have AFib, whether you need a referral or not.
About atrial fibrillation, or AFib
Atrial fibrillation is the most common abnormal heart rhythm. By itself, it is not life-threatening. But it can lead to serious conditions, including stroke and heart failure.
Unfortunately, Oregon’s death rate from atrial fibrillation is one of the highest in the country. The OHSU Atrial Fibrillation Program was developed to improve the health and lives of Oregonians living with AFib.
How the heart works with AFib
Your heart normally beats at a regular speed, or rate. It also has a regular pattern, or rhythm.
When you have AFib, the heart’s two upper sections, called the atria, do not beat regularly. They make a twitching or shaking motion instead. “Fibrillation” is the medical term for this.
What happens to your heart?
You may feel a flutter in your chest or a change in your heartbeat. Some people feel nothing at all.
Either way, your heart is not pumping blood the way it should. Blood can stay in the atria for too long. If it does, it can form clots that travel to your brain. This can cause a life-threatening stroke.
Years of irregular beats can also wear your heart out, possibly causing heart failure. However, managing your AFib can prevent these complications.
Treatments for atrial fibrillation
Treatments to prevent stroke
Medication: Taking blood thinners if you have AFib and a high risk of stroke is important. This can help prevent a stroke.
Procedures: You can have a procedure to seal off the part of the heart where clots form. The section is part of the left atrium, or left upper chamber of the heart. You might be a candidate for this if you can't take blood thinners. Learn more (opens in a new window).
Treatments to control heart rate and rhythm
Medication: You may take medication to control your heart’s rate or rhythm. You may try one or more medications before finding the best option.
Procedures: You might have a treatment called “cardioversion.” It uses an electrical current to put your heart back into a normal rhythm.
Another procedure, called “ablation,” burns or freezes tissue inside the heart. This creates scar tissue around the areas in the atrium that send abnormal signals. The signals are what causes AFib. A doctor who specializes in treating heart rhythm problems does this procedure. This type of specialist is called an “electrophysiologist” (pronounced “ee-lec-tro-FIZZ-ee-OLL-uh-jist”).
AFib risk factors you can change
You cannot control some causes of AFib, like getting older. But you can make some lifestyle changes to lower your risk of life-threatening events.
Working with your primary care doctor or other health care provider, we can help you take simple but important steps to:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Manage diabetes
- Treat sleep apnea
- Stop smoking
- Reduce or stop alcohol use
- Reach a healthier weight
- Reduce the stress and anxiety that can affect your heart
Taking part in AFib research
Clinical trials are research studies that include human volunteers. The OHSU Atrial Fibrillation Program participates in clinical research trials. These give you access to new treatments that may help. Or they may help others in the future.
Ask your OHSU Atrial Fibrillation program team about joining an AFib clinical trial. We can answer your questions and help you find a trial if you are interested.