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Atrial Fibrillation

3D image of patient with atrial fibrillationAtrial fibrillation (also known as AFib) is a condition that causes an irregular and often rapid heart rate. People living with this cardiovascular condition tend to suffer from poor blood circulation. Through clinical trials, our research team is working with others around the country to help improve available treatments for atrial fibrillation. They can also serve as a viable alternative for patients who have not had any success using more conventional forms of therapy.

So what causes the irregular heartbeat associated with atrial fibrillation? The condition causes the heart’s two upper chambers or atria to beat irregularly and even chaotically. This actually throws them out of sync with the lower chambers (the ventricles) of the heart. This produces a range of symptoms including:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pain in the chest

(For more information about the symptoms of atrial fibrillation, please click here.)

The intensity of your condition will vary from others. Some people experience episodic issues with their heartbeat, while others must continuously contend with the effects of atrial fibrillation. Most cases don’t become life-threatening on their own, but it’s going to require patients to make lifestyle adjustments. Otherwise, it can lead to complications which can be very serious. Atrial fibrillation can produce a blood clot that originates in the heart and cuts blood flow off from vital organs.

(Medication and other forms of medical intervention prescribed for AFib patients are designed to alter the heart’s electrical system.)

Your Heart’s Natural Pacemaker

The heart has four chambers– the atria (upper chambers) and the ventricles (lower chambers). Inside the right atrium of the heart is a collection of cells known as the sinus node, which acts as the heart’s natural pacemaker. The impulse that initiates each heartbeat is produced by this node.

In a healthy heart, this impulse fires through the atria and along the into the lower chambers via the atrioventricular (AV) node. The impulse causes each chamber to contract as it passes through, which pumps the blood through the heart. As it passes through the AV node, the ventricles contract and pump blood through the body.

Atrial fibrillation causes a chaotic firing of electrical signals through the atria causing them to quiver. The AV node is then overwhelmed by electrical impulses trying to make their way to the ventricles. These chambers also start to beat more rapidly although only a limited number of impulses are able to make it through at one time.

This chaotic situation is what produces the irregular and fast heart palpitations. An accelerated heart rate can increase from 100 to 175 beats per minute. A normal heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Common Causes of Atrial Fibrillation

Clinical studies have shown that the most common causes of atrial fibrillation are an abnormality or damage that the heart has sustained. The culprits include:

  • Lung disease
  • Complications from a prior heart surgery
  • Prior heart attack
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Abnormal heart valves
  • Metabolic imbalances such as an overactive thyroid gland
  • Viral infections
  • Sleep apnea
  • Particularly high levels of stress
  • Overdose of stimulants such as caffeine or other medications

Though it is more rare, there’s also lone atrial fibrillation. Patients living with this cardiological condition experience similar symptoms, but they don’t have any defects or heart damage. Most cases of lone atrial fibrillation do not produce serious complications.

Heart Palpitations or Heart Attack Symptoms?

Participating in an Atrial Fibrillation Clinical Trial in Birmingham, AL

Our research team has experience conducting complex studies targeted towards atrial fibrillation. If you don’t see a link to the trial at the top of this page, that means we currently aren’t enrolling for this condition. However, if you are interested in participating in a study at our clinic here in Birmingham, we encourage you to fill out the form in the upper right hand corner– it’s quick and easy to complete.

If this is going to be your first time volunteering for a clinical trial, we also recommend that you take some time to peruse our participant resource section. There you’ll find plenty of informative pages answering many of the most common questions we get about our studies. If you have any more specific questions, please contact us directly by phone or email at

There is a screening process for each clinical trial, but one of our principal investigators can tell you more about that. You will be compensated for your time and any travel expenses related to the study. At the same time, participants will be granted access to cutting-edge medicine that is not available anywhere else.

Achieve Clinical Research is located in Birmingham, Alabama and currently conducts clinical trials targeted toward a diverse range of medical conditions. If you don’t have atrial fibrillation, then please note that we are enrolling for these other conditions as well. Interested in helping us advance modern medicine? Please call us today at (205) 380-6434.

The Symptoms & Treatment for Atrial Fibrillation

Additional Resources for Patients with Atrial Fibrillation

American Heart Association

American Stroke Association

American College of Cardiology

Atrial Fibrillation Center – Cleveland Clinic

If you live around Central Alabama, click here to learn more about participating in an atrial fibrillation clinical trial. Also, our sister site Avail Clinical Research conducts atrial fibrillation clinical trials in DeLand, Florida.