Atrial fibrillation is an irregular and often rapid heart rate. The heart has 4 chambers through which blood flows before being sent to the rest of the body to deliver oxygen and vital nutrients. The top 2 chambers are the atria and are important in helping blood reach the bottom 2 chambers, the ventricles. The right ventricle squeezes blood into the lungs to pick up oxygen, while the left ventricle distributes the blood to the rest of the body. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition in which the electrical signals in the atria are rapid and disorganized, producing an irregular heartbeat. The most serious of possible consequences of AF are stroke and heart failure.
Symptoms of AF include palpitations (a sense that the heart is racing, beating irregularly, or skipping beats); fatigue; lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting; shortness of breath; and stroke. Many patients have no symptoms while experiencing AF, but the risk of stroke and heart failure is still present.
Many of our residents have a diagnosis of AF and are being treated successfully using Coumadin (an anticoagulant). These residents should be followed closely by their attending physician and staff should be alert to signs and symptoms of a negative outcome related to the use of this medication. Remember, INRs should be monitored on a scheduled basis and documented. An abnormal INR can result in a bleeding issue or a clot forming, causing a stroke. Stay well, stay informed, and stay tuned!