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Irregular heart rhythm is never actually resolved – the risk of getting a stroke remains after the treatment is over

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Posted May 16, 2018

Problems with the heart rhythm are quite common. However, quite often they are not difficult to treat, even if patients have to take pills for a longer duration of time. But now scientists from the University of Birmingham say that abnormal heart rhythm can‘t even be considered cured and people actually still need treatment even after their heart rhythm seems to have returned to normal.

Atrial fibrillation is the most common cause of irregular heart rhythm. Image credit: BruceBlaus via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The most common cause of irregular heart rhythm is atrial fibrillation, affecting around 1.6 million people in the UK alone. Sometimes people can feel its symptoms, but sometimes they can be completely unaware that there is something wrong. This condition can contribute to the development of stroke, but doctors know how to address that. However, once the rhythm returns to normal the problem is typically considered resolved, while, as now scientists say, the probability of stroke still remains high. Researchers came up to this conclusion after comparing the frequency of strokes between former and current atrial fibrillation patients and those who never had atrial fibrillation.

This study included data from 640 people. Scientists noticed that those who had atrial fibrillation experienced strokes much more frequently than those who never had the condition. In fact, the frequency of strokes was almost the same between current and former atrial fibrillation patients. That simply means that people with resolved cases of atrial fibrillation are still at high risk of stroke and thus they should continue the treatment. These people are typically not getting the preventive drugs and this issue is just getting worse, because more and more patients have “resolved” case of atrial fibrillation. However, scientists think that higher risk of stroke remains, because the condition is never actually resolved in the first place.

Atrial fibrillation can be a tricky condition to diagnose. Professor Tom Marshall, one of the authors of the study, said: “Atrial fibrillation can be present one day and absent the next, so giving someone the all-clear may be a mistake. Another possibility is that it can come back. Many people don’t know when they have this condition and it can come back without them or their doctor realising”. And so, doctors need to advise to continue taking preventive medicine even after the heart rhythm returns to normal.

People with diagnosed cases of atrial fibrillation should also be more careful. They should understand that the risk of stroke is elevated and that they should do everything they can to prevent that.

 

Source: University of Birmingham

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