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Atrial Fibrillation and Heart Failure

by Sandra Keavey, MPAS, DFAAPA, PA-C

Heart failure (HF) is a common clinical syndrome. It can result from a structural or functional cardiac disorder. This impairs the ability of the ventricle to fill with or eject blood.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) can lead to heart failure when the heart beats so fast the atria and ventricles do not fill properly. When the heart doesn’t fill it is unable to adequately perfuse the body. Symptoms develop when Blood can “back up” in the pulmonary veins resulting fluid to back up into the lungs.

The fluid in the lungs causes fatigue and shortness of breath. Oxygenated blood is not delivered to the body or brain. This results in physical and mental fatigue. Stamina is reduced. An obvious sign of this is peripheral edema. Fluid can build up in the feet, ankles, and legs. This is responsible for causing heart failure related weight gain.

Uncontrolled AFib rates make heart failure symptoms worse. The loss of atrial contraction, commonly referred to as the atrial kick, worsens symptoms of HF, because patients who also have diastolic dysfunction often are dependent on the atrial kick of the left ventricle.


See Sandra Keavey, MPAS, DFAAPA, PA-C in 2018 at a Skin, Bones, Hearts & Private Parts event in Phoenix/Scottsdale, Myrtle Beach, Pensacola Beach, or Las Vegas.