It happens to people everywhere, everyday. An estimated 2.2 million Americans suffer from chaotic hearts.
“They usually come in and say my heart is racing or it feels something like a jack hammer. Some will feel dizziness, fatigue,” says Dr. Roshan Vattham, cardiologist with Lee Memorial Health System.
More frequently found in people over 60, the condition is called atrial fibrillation or a-fib.
“It’s the most common cardiac arrhythmia that we see. The normal way the electricity of the heart should run, isn’t running. And what can cause that is the top part is a little out of synch from the bottom part. And it can cause fast heart rates and irregular heart rates,” says Dr. Vattham.
Because the heart doesn’t pump effectively, it can allow blood to pool, creating the potential for stroke-causing clots.
The tricky part is that people can go in and out of a-fib. Their heart may quiver for hours, days or weeks. When it is not a constant condition, it can be difficult to diagnosis with a standard EKG.
“An EKG is a snapshot of time- but who’s to say you walk home and you’re in A-fib,” says Dr. Vattham.
In suspected cases, doctors may send patients home with a monitoring device.
“We can send patients home with a monitor for 1 day, 2 days, even up to 30 days. And we have some implantable recorders, they look like jump drives on the computer, just to see what their rhythm is doing over a long period of time,” says Dr. Vattham.
An insertable loop recorder continuously records the heart’s rate and rhythm.
“You put it right in the top of the chest and you can upload it every 3 months and see what the rhythms been doing,” says Dr. Vattham.
Tuning into a-fib is the first step in restoring order in a chaotic heart.