Atrial fibrillation may be treated to prevent blood clots from forming with the use of blood-thinning medications such as warfarin, dabigatran, heparin and aspirin, notes the National Institutes of Health. Some doctors may use medications or procedures to bring a patient's heart rhythm back to normal. These medications include amiodarone, propafenone, ibutilide, quinidine and disopyramide. Procedures include electrical cardioversion, catheter ablation, maze surgery and pacemaker implantation.
Patients are also commonly prescribed medications to control heart rate, such as esmolol, propranolol, atenolol, verapamil and digoxin. Medications must be closely monitored, because some prescriptions are known to exacerbate the problem by creating new types of arrhythmias or worsening underlying heart conditions. Atrial fibrillation is treated according to a patient's full symptomatic profile and the severity of damage to the heart.
Cardioversion resets the heart rate and rhythm to normal, according to Mayo Clinic. Electrical cardioversion involves an electrical shock being sent through the chest to momentarily stop and reset the activity of the heart. Cardioversion with drugs involves anti-arrhythmics taken orally or intravenously to restore the normal heart rate. Anti-arrhythmic medications may be given after electrical cardioversion to prevent future episodes. Side effects include fatigue, nausea and dizziness, and the medications may be needed indefinitely.
The medication digoxin effectively controls heart rate when it is at rest, but most individuals require additional medications such as beta blockers or calcium channel blockers to regulate heart rate during activity, explains Mayo Clinic. Side effects of beta blockers and calcium channel blockers include low blood pressure and heart failure. Heart rate rhythm is restored surgically with catheter ablation, surgical maze procedure and atrioventricular node ablation. These procedures may be coupled with pacemaker implantation and additional medications afterwards.
As the National Institutes of Health explains, patients have a stronger hope of restoring a regular heart rhythm and repairing the damage to their heart if symptoms are detected early, and treatment is instated quickly. Patients who suffer with atrial fibrillation longer than six months or are diagnosed with an accompanying heart condition are much less likely to recover. The condition allows blood to collect in the atria, which poses a serious threat to patients, as this occurrence can result in a stroke.