‘Is there a cure for AF?’ is a question we all hope has the right answer. However, AF is the result of lifestyle choices and/or age. Adopting lifestyle changes that do not trigger or cause AF is the best first step in an attempt towards a “cure.”
To properly set your expectations, Merriam-Webster has four noun definitions of cure. It can mean a ‘recovery of relief from a disease or condition’ or can also mean ‘a complete or permanent solution or remedy.’ With regard to AF, please think of a cure in this case as “relief” from the condition.
AF can not be permanently cured. Part of the reason is because the treatments are not 100%. Most are effective, but no treatment works for every single patient, and none of the treatments is guaranteed to last forever. The great news is that some treatments are very effective, are more permanent than others and last for many, many years.
This being said, we will briefly discuss the treatments used by medical professionals in an effort to offer recovery or relief from AF.
Pharmacological Treatments for AF: this is the drug treatment method often used first or in combination with other approaches. Medications in this category include blood thinners, rate control and rhythm control drugs.
If the pharmaceutical approach does not fit your lifestyle or work for you, another approach is procedural treatment.
Procedures to Treat AF: there are basically three methods in this category. The first is usually catheter based ablation done by an electrophysiologist. If this does not work, another treatment is a surgical ablation which is done by a cardiac surgeon. The third method is a hybrid ablation which includes a surgical and catheter based approach - or combined disciplinary approach.
During any procedural treatment, it is imperative to discuss how the clinician will address the left atrial appendage. This is where 90% of the clot originates in patients with AF. There are catheter and surgical based methods for treating the left atrial appendage of the heart. The devices have different types of FDA approvals and success rates, which also should be discussed prior to any treatment of AF.
AF may not be permanently curable, but some treatments are highly effective. The treatments towards a cure are typically done in combination with one another. For example, you may be prescribed a medical approach and offered a catheter or surgical ablation. And as you know from everything I propose and support - medical treatments are one thing, but what you do on a daily basis in your life is just as (or more!) important. AF is a condition that requires a dual approach towards any dream of a cure. It requires the expertise of the medical and wellness community, and also requires your desire to live a life conducive to a heart-healthy lifestyle. A medical treatment is not a ticket or free pass to living carefree. It is a new lease on life that offers a chance to shake the old habits that may have caused or triggered AF in the first place, and living a life that helps your heart beat rhythmically.