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Atrial Fibrillation

Usually, a normal heart beats regularly between 60 to 100 times per minute. When the heart gets out of rhythm, atrial fibrillation is frequently the cause. 
The most common yet significant cardiac arrhythmia in Germany is atrial fibrillation. Over 1 million people are affected in this country alone. As the average age of the population is predicted to continue its upward trend, the prognosis that the number of those affected also will increase significantly in the coming years. In terms of symptoms, many patients notice a sudden performance lag associated with fatigue, an irregular heartbeat and shortness of breath. Tachycardia (a heart rate which exceeds the normal range), a concomitant symptom, is not noticed by about one third of patients. Unlike ventricular fibrillation, there is no immediate risk of sudden cardiac death induced by this arrhythmia, although the risk of suffering a stroke is high in patients with atrial fibrillation. As the name indicates, atrial fibrillation is an arrhythmia that originates in the atria. The regular electrical impulses of the sinoatrial node become disturbed by arrhythmic, chaotic circular impulses. When that happens, the atrial beats (conductions) are no longer rhythmic but "flicker" (see Figure 1). The atrioventricular node (AV node) prevents every single impulse of this rapid atrial flickering from being transmitted to the chambers.
 
Since not every flicker impulse is conducted to the main chamber and the signals waves do not continue their circular motion, this in turn creates an irregular rhythm, which most patients perceive as palpitations. 
 
Atrial Fibrillation: Chaotically flickering impulses in the atria are sent irregularly to the AV node that then forwards these impulses irregularly onto the chambers. This creates an irregular pulse.
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