Atrial Fibrillation And Nursing Considerations
As a nurse one must provide holistic care. To better understand aspect of providing holistic nursing care one must have an in-depth understanding of primary body systems and their pathology. This paper will educate the prudent nurses who read it with detailed information about the specific cardiac pathology of atrial fibrillation. Written with a basic understanding of human heart function/structure as a prerequisite, this paper will first discuss key terms one must be familiar with before providing researched information explaining the pathophysiology of atrial fibrillation (AF). Next, it will discuss the etiology, clinical ...view middle of the document...
According to Medilexicon's medical dictionary, atrial fibrillation is "fibrillation in which the normal rhythmic contractions of the cardiac atria are replaced by rapid irregular twitching of the muscular wall; the ventricles respond irregularly to the dysrhythmic bombardment from the atria." (MediLexicon, 2012). Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia, a disorder of the heart’s electrical system which causes an abnormal heartbeat. The heartbeat begins with the sinoatrial (SA) node, this is the heart’s pacemaker; it sends impulses to the atrioventricular (AV) node. The AV node determines how much the ventricles contract. The body’s pulse rate is caused by the contraction of the left ventricle.
When the atrioventricular node receives too many impulses, more than it is able to conduct, atrial fibrillation occurs. The result is irregular contractions of the ventricles. That is why a patient with atrial fibrillation has an irregular and high pulse rate. To summarize, during atrial fibrillation the contractions of the two upper chambers of the heart are not synchronized with the contractions of the two lower chambers [ (Nordqvist, 2011) ]. “If this happens, blood isn't pumped into the ventricles as well as it should be. Also, the amount of blood pumped out of the ventricles (cardiac output) to the body is based on the random atrial beats. Thus, the body may get rapid, small amounts of blood and occasional larger amounts of blood” [ (NHLBI, 2012) ]. Cardiac output in an AF patient may increase or decrease, but the amount will depend on how much blood has flowed from the atria to the ventricles with each beat.
“Episodes of atrial fibrillation can come and go, or you may have chronic atrial fibrillation. Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn't life-threatening, it is a serious medical condition that sometimes requires emergency treatment. It can lead to complications. Treatments for atrial fibrillation may include medications and other interventions to try to alter the heart's electrical system” [ (Mayo Clinic, 2012) ].
“AF is the most common dysrhythmia seen in clinical practice. More than two million Americans have AF. It is responsible for a third of hospitalizations for cardiac rhythm disturbances” [ (Ignatavicius & Workman, 2010) ]. Men are more likely than women to be affected, and is more common among Whites than African Americans or Hispanic Americans. The risk of AF increases as you age, “the older you are, the greater your risk of developing AF” [ (Mayo Clinic, 2012) ]. Although, “about half of the people who have AF are younger than 75” [ (Sutton, 2010) ].
AF is more common in people with heart diseases or conditions, such as the following: coronary heart disease, heart failure, rheumatic heart disease, structural heart defects, valvular disorders, pericarditis, congenital heart defects, and sick sinus syndrome. It is more common in...