Atrial fibrillation (AF) is one of those terms that we are hearing more and more in general practice. It is an important risk factor for stroke – particularly in older people – making it a good candidate for primary care teams to target in efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a condition that we are seeing more and more in general practice, with the increasingly ageing population. It is an important risk factor for stroke – particularly in older people – making it a good candidate for primary care teams to target in efforts to prevent cardiovascular disease. In this article, we explore how to diagnose and treat, using a case study to guide us through the key issues.
Arrhythmias are extremely common. They are usually benign but their significance depends on the symptoms they cause. Some arrhythmias are more serious and can be life-threatening. In this article we clarify the causes of arrhythmias and help you sort out the different types that can occur, dividing them into the two main categories – tachyarrhythmias, where the heart rate is faster than normal, and bradyarrhythmias, where the heart rate is much slower than normal.
Heart murmurs – abnormal sounds heard through the stethoscope – are caused by turbulent blood flow in the heart or blood vessels. They can be associated with a range of conditions, including valve defects, high blood pressure and heart failure in adults and congenital heart defects in children. Patients should be investigated carefully to identify the underlying cause, which will determine treatment and prognosis. Some pathological murmurs require no treatment. If they are severe, however, surgery may be needed to correct the causative defect. Drug treatments may be indicated for some murmurs.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) have – quite literally – fired a major revolution in the management of patients at high risk for potentially life-threatening arrhythmias. More sophisticated than pacemakers, ICDs monitor the heart constantly, but only initiate an electrical signal when they detect an incorrect heart rhythm. ICDs can function as pacemakers for slow heart rates, but may also deliver high-energy electrical therapy for fast heart rates. In this article, we review how ICDs work, how they are used and what care we need to provide for patients who have had these devices implanted.
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The prevalence of atrial fibrillation (AF) is increasing with the ageing population. It is well worth detecting and treating as it carries a significant risk of debilitating disease, including stroke and heart failure. This article explains some of the health risks and describes simple actions that can play an important part in both the prevention and management of AF and its consequences.