Evolving View of Dangers of Atrial Fibrillation

Until the 1990s, atrial fibrillation was noted mostly for the number of false alarms it generated among patients who showed up at emergency rooms fearing they were having heart attacks.
Doctors viewed it as relatively benign because the most common symptoms — palpitations, dizziness and shortness of breath — were tolerable and often short-lived.

No matter how bad patients may have felt, enough blood still flowed into the ventricles to sustain adequate circulation, as long as the ventricles remained healthy.

But doctors now recognize that atrial fibrillation allows blood to pool in the atria and form clots, which in turn may explain why such patients are prone to strokes and heart attacks.

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