Inova’s Multidisciplinary AFib Center Improves Patient Outcomes and Satisfaction

Brett Atwater, MD is a specialty care physician board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular medicine and clinical cardiac electrophysiology. He serves as the Director of Heart Rhythm Services at Inova Heart and Vascular Institute.

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the most common arrhythmia worldwide. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 12.1 million people in the United States will have AFib by 2030. People with AFib have a risk of stroke that is five times higher than patients without AFib, and AFib causes about one out of every seven strokes. AFib can also lead to other heart-related complications.

The conditions that cause AFib are complex, and so is the management of this condition. Risk factors for AFib include age, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, heart failure, hyperthyroidism, alcohol use and sleep apnea. A multidisciplinary strategy not only offers  convenience for the patient, but it also fosters better collaboration for the care team and results in efficiencies that help ensure faster access to essential treatments.

The Inova AFib Center is based on a “center of excellence” model offering streamlined evaluations with medical providers from multiple specialties in one visit in the same location, followed by comprehensive, team-based care. Depending on individual risk factors and existing provider relationships, patients may be seen by specialists in general cardiology, electrophysiology, weight loss, behavioral health, sleep medicine and clinical pharmacy.

Early studies show that this approach to AFib care has been associated with reductions in all-cause mortality, cardiovascular hospitalizations and emergency room visits. Additional benefits include significantly shorter wait times to see an electrophysiologist, more cost-effective care, fewer readmissions and shorter hospital stays.

The Inova AFib Center partners with our patients, cardiologists and primary care providers to fully address the patient’s needs at various stages of treatment, using evidence-based protocols to assure delivery of high quality, state-of-the-art care. We offer patients a full range of treatment options based on their unique needs, including the latest techniques, less invasive treatments, personalized medication and emerging therapies through clinical trial partnerships. The team focuses on four specific treatment goals or pillars of AFib management:  managing risk factors, preventing stroke, controlling heart rhythm and controlling heart rate.

Risk factors for AFib include the following:

  • Lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, alcohol consumption, excessive caffeine consumption, anxiety and stress can increase an individual’s risk of AFib. Inova experts in weight management and behavioral therapy are available to help reduce the impact of these AFib risk factors.
  • Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart failure, a prior heart attack, valvular heart disease, abnormal thyroid function and untreated sleep apnea can all make a person more likely to develop AFib. Half of patients with AFib also have sleep apnea. If left untreated over time, sleep apnea can lead to the onset of additional 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.
  • Nonmodifiable factors can also increase a person’s risk. These include older age, family history and male sex.

If you have these symptoms, you should consult with an AFib specialist:

  • Palpitations
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Malaise/feeling poorly
  • Dizziness
  • Anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Exercise intolerance

The Inova AFib Center is located within the Inova Specialty Center at 8081 Innovation Park Dr., Suite 602, in Fairfax, VA. To learn more or schedule an appointment, call 571-472-2342 or email afib@inova.org.


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