5 Classifications of AFib

Paroxysmal (intermittent) AF - Atrial fibrillation that terminates spontaneously or with intervention within 7 days of onset. Episodes may recur with variable frequency.

Persistent AF – Continuous atrial fibrillation that is sustained for more than 7 days. Episodes lasting more than 7 days are unlikely to stop on their own1. Persistent AF can be thought of in phases based on the duration of the AFib:

  1. Early Persistent AF – Early persistent AF is defined as AF that is sustained beyond 7 days but is less than 3 months in duration.1
  2. Persistent AF - Continuous atrial fibrillation that lasts for more than 7 days.1
  3. Long-Standing Persistent AF – Continuous atrial fibrillation that lasts for more than twelve months.1

Permanent atrial fibrillation – Permanent atrial fibrillation is the classification used when there has been a joint decision by the patient and clinician to cease further attempts to restore and/or maintain sinus rhythm.

  • This classification represents a therapeutic attitude on the part of the patient and clinician as opposed to atrial fibrillation being an inherent physiological disorder.
  • Acceptance of atrial fibrillation may change as symptoms, the efficacy of therapeutic interventions, and patient and clinician preferences evolve.

Nonvalvular atrial fibrillation – Atrial fibrillation in the absence of rheumatic mitral stenosis, a mechanical or bioprosthetic heart valve, or mitral valve repair.

Other Types of Cardiac Arrhythmia

AFib is not the only condition that causes abnormally fast heart rhythm due to improper electrical activity in the upper part of the heart–a particular classification of heart arrhythmia called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)2. AFib is the most common type of SVT with the other three main types being atrial flutter, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), and Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome.3 It is important to understand these other types of SVT as well.

Atrial Flutter – Although less common, atrial flutter is very similar to AFib because the electrical problem is also in the atria. However, with atrial flutter the heart beats very fast in a regular rhythm.

Atrial flutter can occur if you have heart disease, heart attack or chest trauma. Although not life threatening, your atrial flutter needs to be controlled to prevent more serious types of arrhythmia, like atrial fibrillation, from developing.

Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia – PSVT may occur at any age and commonly occurs in patients who have no other types of heart disease. Patients with PSVT typically describe a rapid, or racing, regular heartbeat (between 130 and 230 beats per minute) that starts and stops abruptly. It is commonly misdiagnosed as a panic attack. With the exception of some patients with the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, PSVT generally is not a dangerous arrhythmia. However, it can result in debilitating symptoms.4

Wolff-Parkinson White Syndrome – Occurs when you have a second, or ancillary, pathway within your heart that conducts electrical signals between your atria and ventricles. In this situation your electrical signals skip your AV node and instead use the extra pathway. Your signals reach your ventricles too soon and reverberate back to your atria, causing a very fast heartbeat.

Most cases of Wolff-Parkinson-White are hereditary or associated with congenital (present at birth) or acquired heart defects. Most people with WPW have no symptoms, but in some people, it can be extremely dangerous and even pose a serious risk for sudden death.

Cardiac ablation is a treatment option in cases when your WPW symptoms put you at risk of sudden death. Cardiac ablation can eliminate the symptoms of the disorder in most (85%–95%) cases, depending on the location of the ancillary pathway.

Meet Donne and Jan:

After a few small strokes, Jan was diagnosed with AFib. Later, her husband Donne was also diagnosed with AFib. Watch to learn how this couple treated their hearts with radiofrequency catheter ablation.

Find a Doctor Near You

Take control today!
Talk to a heart arrythmia specialist about
your options.

Find a Doctor