Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common arrhythmia encountered in clinical practice. Its increasing prevalence, particularly among the elderly, renders it one of the most serious current medical epidemics. Several management questions confront the clinician treating a patient with AF: Should the condition be treated? Is the patient at risk of death or serious morbidity as a result of this diagnosis? If treatment is necessary, is rate control or rhythm control superior? Which patients need anticoagulation therapy, and for how long? This review of articles obtained by a search of the PubMed and MEDLINE databases presents the available evidence that can guide the clinician in answering these questions. After discussing the merits of available therapy, including medications aimed at controlling rate, rhythm, or both, we focus on the present status of ablative therapy for AF. Catheter ablation, particularly targeting the pulmonary veins, is being increasingly performed, although the precise indications for this approach and its effectiveness and safety are being actively investigated. We briefly discuss other invasive options that are less frequently used, such as pacemakers, defibrillators, left atrial appendage closure devices, and the surgical maze procedure.
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