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Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation

Donald K. Shaw, PT, PhD, D.Min., FAACVPR

December 17, 2014

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Question

Besides the ECG readings of atrial fibrillation, will patients have any other symptoms regarding that issue?

Answer

The quickest way to tell we have an arrhythmia is simply to just take the pulse.  If you are away from a monitor, we will not know what it is.  We cannot tell whether it is supraventricular, meaning something is arrhythmic in the upper portion of the heart, or ventricular in origin.  Many people function all of their lives in atrial fibrillation.  The physicians will say these people have had it forever and tolerate it.  It is those who do not tolerate it.  Imagine the atria receiving ectopic foci signals at the rate of anywhere from 300 to 600 of these in a minute.  That is a lot.  It is very important for us to realize that we cannot generate a rate that high, but there is metabolic activity going on with these foci firing.  Many times the person with new atrial fibrillation will not only have an irregular pulse, but will feel very tired, to the point where they just feel dragged down.  Checking the pulse at that point would help. 


donald k shaw

Donald K. Shaw, PT, PhD, D.Min., FAACVPR

Donald K. Shaw, PT, PhD, D.Min.,  FAACVPR is a Professor in the Physical Therapy Department at Nova Southeastern University. Dr. Shaw is a Fellow and former national board member of the American Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation. He has lectured and presented research in Argentina, Scotland, Ireland, the Peoples Republic of China, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and throughout the United States. His published work appears widely in medical journals including the Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, Respiratory Care, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy Journal, Heart and Lung, Journal of Allied Health, and the American Journal of Cardiology. Dr. Shaw has received several university awards for both teaching and scholarship.

 


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