Can a pacemaker prevent atrial fibrillation?
A pacemaker can prevent atrial fibrillation to some extent. Multisite atrial pacing can reduce the chance of atrial (auricular) fibrillation. There are pacemakers with special programs for prevention of atrial fibrillation. http://www.ipej.org/0302/levine3.htm.
In addition to this, a pacemaker can pace the heart when the heart is unduly slowed by beta blockers which are commonly used to treat atrial fibrillation. This helps in optimising the dose of beta blockers and similar drugs used for treatment of atrial fibrillation without the fear of undue slowing of the heart.
Another situation in which pacemaker is used in atrial fibrillation is after ablation of the AV node. When heart rate in atrial fibrillation cannot be controlled adequately by medications, radiofrequency current delivered through an electrode is used to damage the atrioventricular node (AV node), which passes the atrial signals to the ventricles. This produces block at the AV node. Then a pacemaker is needed to maintain the heart rate by pacing the ventricles.
Atrial fibrillation: Irregular fast rhythm of the upper chamber of the heart, upper chambers are virtually in standstill due to the very fast rate of the order of 450-600/min.
Atrium: Thin walled upper chamber of the heart (left and right)
Atrial: Related to the upper chamber of the heart
Ventricles: Lower muscular chambers of the heart
AV node: Structure which relays the electrical signals from the upper chambers of the heart to the lower chambers after a short delay
Pacemaker: Electrical device used to give artificial pulses to the heart when its own rhythm is not sufficient
Beta blocker: Medications used in treatment of high blood pressure and high heart rate, blocks beta receptors in the sympathetic nervous system