The Snyder Center for Comprehensive Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AF or AFib) is the most common irregular or abnormal heart rhythm disorder, affecting more than 3 million Americans today. Thankfully, more options to treat atrial fibrillation are available now than ever before.

There is no one “cause” of atrial fibrillation, although it can be associated with:

  • The period following heart surgery
  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Chronic lung disease
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Sleep apnea

In at least 10 percent of cases, no underlying heart disease is found. The risk of atrial fibrillation increases with age, particularly after age 60.

The Snyder Center: A Comprehensive Treatment Approach

The Snyder Center moves away from a crisis management approach in favor of a value-based approach that emphasizes the overall health of patients with atrial fibrillation.

Patients seen at the Snyder Center are evaluated by a multidisciplinary team including electrophysiologists, plus specialists in imaging, cardiology, sleep medicine, nutrition and weight loss management, diabetes, and stress management. The goal is to identify health issues that are contributing to the patient’s AFib—such as stress, hypertension, sleep apnea and obesity. Navigators and coordinators guide patients through the entire care continuum. The emphasis is on overall health, not simply treating AFib.

Initial Physician Consultation

The first step in receiving care is to contact the Snyder Center for a physician consultation. During this appointment, the doctor will determine if you qualify for care under our comprehensive AFib program. You may be asked to bring past medical records and other information with you to the appointment. Any steps you will need to take in preparation of the physician consultation will be discussed with you when your appointment is made.

The Snyder Team

The Snyder Center introduces a total patient management approach to AFib versus a “silo” approach focused on ablation techniques only. As a result, patients may interact with any of the following healthcare professionals.

  • Electrophysiologists
  • Cardiologists
  • Sleep Apnea Specialists
  • Weight-Loss Physician and Staff
  • Nutritionist
  • Diagnostic Imaging Technicians
  • Stress Reduction Specialists

A nurse practitioner will coordinate all aspects of your care. She will be your partner for all questions and assistance in between appointments. Our AFib Coordinator will conveniently schedule appointments with the specialists noted above as needed.

Services

  • Electrophysiology
  • Weight-Loss Management
  • Sleep Medicine
  • Nutrition
  • Stress Reduction
  • Physical Fitness
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Care Coordination for All Services Above

The Snyder Center is equipped with the latest technology for the treatment of AFib in a setting that emphasizes multidisciplinary patient evaluation and comprehensive follow-up.

Diagnosing Atrial Fibrillation

The most commonly used tests to diagnose atrial fibrillation include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): The ECG draws a picture on graph paper of the electrical impulses traveling through the heart muscle. An EKG provides an electrical “snapshot” of the heart. For people who have symptoms that come and go, a special monitor may need to be used to “capture” the arrhythmia.

Holter monitor: A small external recorder is worn over a short period of time, usually one to three days. Electrodes (sticky patches) are placed on the skin of the chest. Wires are attached from the electrodes to the monitor. The electrical impulses are continuously recorded and stored in the monitor. After the monitor is removed, a technician uses a computer to analyze the data to evaluate the heart’s rhythm.

Portable telemetry monitor: A monitor that is worn for about a month for patients who have less frequent irregular heartbeat episodes and symptoms. Electrodes (sticky patches) are placed on the skin of the chest. Wires are attached from the electrodes to the monitor. The patient presses a button to activate the monitor when symptoms occur. The device records the electrical activity of the heart for several seconds. The patient then transmits the device’s recorded information over a telephone line to the doctor’s office for evaluation. The portable event monitor is very useful in determining what heart rhythm is causing symptoms.

Transtelephonic monitor: When you develop symptoms of atrial fibrillation, a strip of your current heart rhythm can be transmitted to your doctor’s office over the telephone, using a monitor with two bracelets or by placing the monitor against your chest wall. These monitoring devices help your doctor determine if an irregular heart rhythm (arrhythmia) is causing your symptoms.

Treating Atrial Fibrillation

Below are the five most common methods of treating atrial fibrillation.

1) Medications

Medications are often used initially to treat atrial fibrillation. Medications may include:

Rhythm control medications (antiarrhythmic drugs): Antiarrhythmic medications help return the heart to its normal sinus rhythm or maintain normal sinus rhythm.

Rate control medications: Rate control medications, such as B-blockers and calcium channel blockers, are used to help slow the heart rate during atrial fibrillation.

Anticoagulant medications: Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy medications reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke, but they do not eliminate the risk.

2) Lifestyle Changes

  • Lose weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Limit the use of caffeine
  • Exercise

The Snyder Team is equipped to help with all lifestyle changes.

3) Procedures

When medications do not work to correct or control atrial fibrillation, or when medications are not tolerated, a procedure may be necessary to treat the abnormal heart rhythm. These procedures include:

  • Electrical cardioversion
  • Pulmonary vein ablation
  • Hybrid ablation
  • Ablation of the AV node

4) Device Therapy

For some patients a device will be required. These include:

  • Implantable loop recorder
  • Permanent pacemaker
  • Left atrial appendage closure device (Watchman, Lariat)

5) Surgical Treatment

Certain patients are candidates for surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation. These include patients with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Other conditions requiring heart surgery
  • Atrial fibrillation that persists after optimal treatment with medications
  • Unsuccessful catheter ablation
  • Enlarged left atrium

Surgical procedures include:

  • Maze Procedure
  • Excision or Exclusion of the Left Atrial Appendage

The Importance of Effectively Managing Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation decreases the heart’s pumping ability. The irregularity can make the heart work less efficiently. In addition, atrial fibrillation that occurs over a long period of time can significantly weaken the heart and lead to heart failure.

Some people live for years with AFib without problems. However, AFib can lead to future problems. AFib is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart failure and even death.

Ongoing Patient Monitoring

A key benefit of receiving care at the Snyder Center is the ongoing patient monitoring you will receive. A nurse practitioner will coordinate all aspects of your care. When your initial course of treatment is completed you will continue to be monitored to ensure your condition has stabilized or is improving. Managing AFib is a daily responsibility for many patients, and we will be there with you as partners in your care.

Dedication to Research

The Snyder Center’s commitment to AFib goes well beyond the dedicated care we provide to patients. We are also researchers in the field. Our experiences with patients contribute to valuable research in the field of AFIb diagnosis and treatment. The research is undertaken at Valley and is conducted by a dedicated team that includes our advanced practice nurse and research coordinators.

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment, call 201-447-8392.