Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) in Children

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is very rare in children, but the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments are much the same as in an adult.


Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is disorganized, rapid electrical discharges in the atria (top chambers), creating an irregular heartbeat in the atria that often does not coordinate with the heartbeat in the bottom chambers (ventricles).

This rhythm can occur in children with normal heart structures and those with congenital heart disease.  Learn more about arrhythmias and congenital heart disease.

Symptoms & Signs

The symptoms of atrial arrhythmias vary, ranging from no symptoms at all to:

  • shortness of breath
  • palpitations
  • dizziness
  • fatigue

If the atrial arrhythmia is not under control, weakening of the heart muscle and/or blood clot formation in the heart can occur, increasing the risk of stroke.


Diagnosis is made through cardiac rhythm testing and can include ECG, Holter monitor, event monitor, exercise stress test, implantable loop recorder, or an electrophysiology study (EPS).


Management of atrial fibrillation is directed at controlling fast heart rates that can lead to symptoms and overall weakening of the heart muscle, and avoiding blood clots that can lead to stroke.

A variety of cardiac medications and blood thinners may also be prescribed by your cardiologist. On occasion, a cardioversion may be necessary to restore a patient’s normal rhythm.

In select patients either an electrophysiology study (EPS) and catheter ablation or surgical ablation can be used to treat the problem. Your cardiologist will discuss the treatment options with you.

Lifestyle Changes

Ongoing close management with your cardiologist/electrophysiologist is essential. Depending on rhythm control and medical management, lifestyle changes may be individualized.

Keep Exploring

Heart Rhythm Disorders
Millions of people experience irregular or abnormal heartbeats, called arrhythmias, at some point in their lives. Most of the time, they are harmless and happen in healthy people free of heart disease. However, some abnormal heart rhythms can be serious or even deadly. Having other types of heart disease can also increase the risk of arrhythmias.
Pediatrics and Congenital Heart Disease (CHD)
This section is for pediatric patients and families living with heart rhythm disorders and heart rhythm disorders related to congenital heart disease (CHD).
Early Warning Signs
If you are experiencing a racing, pounding, rumbling or flopping feeling in your chest or if you have been fainting, having repeated dizzy spells, feeling lightheaded or you are extremely fatigued, it's time to see a doctor to discuss your heart health.
Common Treatments
Learning about the underlying cause of any heart rhythm disorder provides the basis for selecting the best treatment plan. Information and knowledge about care options, and their risks and benefits help you work with your health care provider to make the best choices.
Since other heart disorders increase the risk of developing abnormal heart rhythms, lifestyle changes often are recommended. Living a “heart healthy” lifestyle can ease the symptoms experienced with heart rhythm disorders and other heart disorders, and can be beneficial to overall patient health.
The Normal Heart
The heart is a fist-sized muscle that pumps blood through the body 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, without rest. The normal heart is made up of four parts: two atria on the top of the heart (right atrium and left atrium), and two ventricles (right ventricle and left ventricle) which are the muscular chambers on the bottom of the heart that provide the major power to pump blood.