Atrial fibrillation is a cardiac arrhythmia that may affect up to 2% of the population, with over 10% of those over the age of 80 potentially affected.1 This reflects the fact that there is an increased incidence of atrial fibrillation with older age. Atrial fibrillation is associated with a fivefold increase in the risk of stroke caused by thromboembolism.1 Indeed, 12,500 strokes per year in the UK may be due to atrial fibrillation and some may be preventable in those patients on anticoagulation.1 It can be asymptomatic or may present with chest pain, palpitations and/or shortness of breath. Furthermore, atrial fibrillation may cause heart failure.
In atrial fibrillation, there is a lack of coordinated atrial electrical activity such that there is irregular depolarisation through the atrioventricular node. This may cause an irregular pulse. Atrial fibrillation may be caused by hypertension, thyrotoxicosis, cardiac valve disease and ischaemic heart disease and systemic infection.1,2