Atrial Fibrillation in Children

Atrial Fibrillation is isorganized, 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 structure and those with congenital heart disease. This rhythm can occur in children with normal heart structure and those with congenital heart disease.  Learn more about arrhythmias and congenital heart disease.

Signs and Symptoms

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

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).

Treatment

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 (a controlled electrical shock while under sedation) 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 and cauterize the sites of abnormal electrical discharges. 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.