Learn about the Inova AFib Center below by watching the introduction videos, "Ask the Expert" sessions, and reading FAQs, featured stories, and blog posts.

Introduction to AFib & The Inova AFib Center

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Welcome to Inova AFib Center
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AFib Risk Factors

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Detecting and Diagnosing Afib
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AFib Causes and Management
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AFib Treatment Options

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AFib and Stroke Risk & Prevention
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Obesity and AFib: How are they related?
sleep apnea and afib
Sleep Apnea and AFib

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Women and Atrial Fibrillation

Ask the Expert Sessions

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Ask the Expert: Atrial Fibrillation: An Irregularly Irregular Journey with Zachary Hollis, MD
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Ask the Expert: Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms and the Latest Treatments Options with Vineet Kumar, MD
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Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments Options with Brett Atwater, MD

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Atrial Fibrillation — Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Options with Dr. Stephen Gaeta
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Atrial Fibrillation: Causes, Symptoms and the Latest Treatment Options with Dr. Marc Wish


The conditions causing AFib and managing it are complex. A multidisciplinary approach offers not only convenience for the patient but also efficiency for the care team that fosters better collaboration and faster access to essential treatments.

Early studies show that this approach with AFib patients has been associated with improved outcomes such as a 49% reduction in all-cause mortality, 42% reduction in cardiovascular hospitalizations, 50%–82% reduction in emergency department visits, significantly shorter wait times to see an electrophysiologist, more cost-effective care, and fewer readmissions and shorter length of hospital stay.

Electrophysiologist (EP)

Electrophysiologists are cardiologists with additional training in electrical impulses in the heart. They diagnose and treat disruptions in the normal heart rhythm (arrhythmias), including AFib, and are trained to use specialized testing, devices, and catheterization procedures, including catheter ablation. The EP will lead your AFib care and may prescribe medication and lifestyle changes, in addition to performing any necessary procedures.


If you aren't already working with a cardiologist, we can provide one. Cardiology focuses on all heart disorders through surgery and other treatment options.

Sleep Specialist

Half of the patients with AFib are also estimated to have sleep apnea. If left untreated over time, sleep apnea can lead to the onset of risk factors such as hypertension and diabetes that predispose a person to AFib. In fact, patients with sleep apnea have four times the risk of developing AFib. Our sleep specialist will help manage sleep apnea if present.

Weight Management Specialist

Because obesity is a well-established risk factor for AFib, if you are experiencing (or are at risk for) obesity, we will discuss programs and services to help our patients manage their weight. Exercise and weight loss can improve outcomes for patients with established AFib.

Behavioral Health Specialist

Coping with a complex condition like AFib can toll your mental health. Our behavioral health team helps AFib patients focus on the connection between a patient's psychological and physical health.

Clinical Pharmacist

Patients with AFib may receive long-term oral anticoagulation medication to help prevent blood clots and reduce the risk of stroke, as well as antiarrhythmic medication to prevent and treat their abnormal heartbeats. Our pharmacist can both prescribe and explain these medications to you.

AFib is an abnormal chaotic heart rhythm that originates in the heart's top two chambers (known as the atria). It frequently causes the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles) to beat rapidly and in an irregular pattern, often creating a fast pulse. AFib causes symptoms in 70-85% of patients, increases the risks of stroke and heart failure, and reduces the expected life span of affected patients.

What Causes AFib?

Risk factors for AFib include:

  • Lifestyle factors: Obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine consumption, anxiety, and stress. We have experts available to help you reduce the impact of these risk factors on your AFib.
  • Medical conditions: High blood pressure, heart failure, prior heart attack, valvular heart disease, abnormal thyroid function and untreated sleep apnea.
  • Non-modifiable factors: Older age, family history, male sex.

How does AFib progress?

Left untreated, AFib usually progresses in these phases:

  1. Intermittent Episodes/Paroxysmal AFib
  2. Persistent Episodes: lasting more than seven days or requiring procedures to stop
  3. Permanent AFib: doesn’t stop even with procedures

Without treatment, one in five patients progress from paroxysmal (intermittent) AFib to persistent AFib in one year. Conversely, patients with paroxysmal AFib who undergo catheter ablation are ten times less likely to progress from paroxysmal AFib to persistent AFib. The success of medicines and procedures for eliminating AFib is also higher when treating paroxysmal AFib versus persistent AFib.

What are the symptoms of AFib?

Patients have reported the following symptoms of AFib:

  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue Shortness of Breath
  • Malaise/Feeling Poorly
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Chest Pain

People with AFib have a risk of stroke five times higher than patients without AFib. AFib can reduced the speed of blood flow in the top chambers of the heart (atria). Slow blood flow during AFib promotes blood clotting within the heart, which can then travel to the brain or other organs, blocking the flow of blood and resulting in stroke or tissue damage.

To reduce the risk of stroke, some patients with AFib should be treated with blood thinning medications or undergo procedures to reduce the stroke risk.

For patients with atrial fibrillation not caused by a heart valve problem who need an alternative to blood thinners, the implantable WATCHMAN FLX™ device may be effective.

Assess Your AFib Stroke Risk

Recent studies have shown that patients with AFib may be at higher risk for developing dementia. We are still learning about this connection, but it appears that correcting AFib and restoring normal rhythm may help reduce the likelihood of developing dementia later in life.

For patients who continue to experience AFib following treatment, we offer hybrid or "convergent" therapies which integrate minimally invasive surgical epicardial ablation with endocardial catheter ablation. Cardiac surgeons work in tandem with an electrophysiologist to perform these procedures.

By teaming up, EP specialists and cardiac surgeons can reach more problem areas on the surface of the heart to help patients return to a better quality of life when they haven't responded to less invasive interventions.

AFib risk factors include:

  • Obesity 
  • Hypertension 
  • Diabetes 
  • Cardiovascular disease 
  • Sleep apnea 
  • Alcohol use

Inova's AFib Center teaches you about your disease process and available treatment options. In addition, it gives you access to specialists from multiple disciplines who will address and manage the risk factors that may have contributed to you developing atrial fibrillation. Specialties include electrophysiology, cardiology, sleep medicine, behavioral health, pharmacy, and weight loss.