Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, and feels like a fluttering, skipping or pounding feeling in your chest.

It can happen for a number of reasons. Getting older can make you more likely to have AFib, so can obesity, heart disease or genetics. A buildup of tissue or a thickening of the heart walls throws off the heart’s electrical signals, resulting in an irregular heartbeat.

Sometimes AFib happens randomly for no apparent reason. But when it is present, it requires treatment. Long-term AFib can put you at a higher risk of heart failure and stroke.

AFib has been treated successfully for years with thermal ablation, a technique that removes excess tissue in the heart by ablating it with heat or freezing it. While effective, thermal ablation carries a risk of damaging body parts near the heart such as the esophagus or phrenic nerve, which controls the diaphragm and is vital for breathing.

Now Endeavor Health is using a new, even safer AFib treatment.

Pulsed field ablation is similar to thermal ablation and just as effective, yet safer for patients. It uses short, high voltage electric shocks delivered directly to the excess heart tissue which damages and reduces it, while adjacent body parts are not injured by the treatment.

The pulsed field ablation device from Medtronic was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in December 2023, and has been called a game-changer. It’s even done as an outpatient procedure.

"The procedure can be done without general anesthesia and patients often go home the same day," said Hany Demo, MD, a cardiologist at Endeavor Health who specializes in cardiac electrophysiology. "Pulsed field ablation is a fast, safe and just as effective way to treat recurrent AFib without the risk of damaging adjacent tissue."

People who experience AFib regularly and have not been able to control it with medication may be good candidates for pulsed field ablation.

Sometimes people who have AFib don’t realize it’s happening because they don’t have any symptoms. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 12.1 million Americans will have AFib in 2030.

Symptoms of AFib can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • A rapid, pounding heartbeat or a fluttering feeling in the chest
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath

Tell your doctor if you feel symptoms of AFib.

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