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Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2011;7:193-202. doi: 10.2147/VHRM.S10758. Epub 2011 Mar 31.

The pathology and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias: focus on atrial fibrillation.

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Department of Cardiology, Medical University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.


Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most frequently encountered sustained cardiac arrhythmia in clinical practice and a major cause of morbidity and mortality. Effective treatment of AF still remains an unmet medical need. Treatment of AF is based on drug therapy and ablative strategies. Antiarrhythmic drug therapy is limited by a relatively high recurrence rate and proarrhythmic side effects. Catheter ablation suppresses paroxysmal AF in the majority of patients without structural heart disease but is more difficult to achieve in patients with persistent AF or with concomitant cardiac disease. Stroke is a potentially devastating complication of AF, requiring anticoagulation that harbors the risk of bleeding. In search of novel treatment modalities, targeted pharmacological treatment and gene therapy offer the potential for greater selectivity than conventional small-molecule or interventional approaches. This paper summarizes the current understanding of molecular mechanisms underlying AF. Established drug therapy and interventional treatment of AF is reviewed, and emerging clinical and experimental therapeutic approaches are highlighted.


antiarrhythmic therapy; anticoagulation; atrial fibrillation; catheter ablation; stroke

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