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What is Atrial Fibrillation with RVR?

Atrial Fibrillation with Rapid Ventricular Response (RVR) is a heart condition where the upper chambers quiver chaotically, causing the lower chambers to beat irregularly and often rapidly. This can lead to symptoms like heart palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath. Understanding this condition is crucial for managing its risks. How does it affect long-term health, and what treatments are available? Continue exploring to learn more.
Greg Caramenico
Greg Caramenico

Atrial fibrillation with RVR (rapid ventricular response) is an irregular electrical activity in the atria of the heart that leads to abnormal contraction there and in the ventricles. It is characterized by an excessively rapid heartbeat, but may or may not cause symptoms in some patients. There are different causes of atrial fibrillation, which is not a disease in its own right but a malfunction of the atrial cells' pacemaking. Complications include the gradual scarring of the atrial muscle, and become more probable if the problem becomes chronic.

The most common variety of cardiac arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation with RVR occurs when the electrical activity of the atria is erratic, causing more frequent ventricular contraction and increasing the heart rate. The normal heartbeat is called the sinus rhythm and is measured with an electrocardiogram (ECG). The ECG divides a single beat of the heart into six waves, each of which has a clearly defined order and duration. Excessive excitation of the atrial cells causes electrical waves to become spatially distinct and change their normal shape, resulting in an ECG display unique to this condition and used to diagnose it.

A plastic cross-section of a human heart that displays both atria (top) and ventricles (bottom).
A plastic cross-section of a human heart that displays both atria (top) and ventricles (bottom).

The rapid ventricular response accompanying some cases of atrial fibrillation occurs when cardiac muscle cells in the atria overcome their intrinsic pacemaker's signals, firing rapidly out of their normal pattern, an activity that then spreads to the ventricles. Atrial electrical signals must pass the heart's atrioventricular node (AV) in order for the contraction of a heartbeat to continue on to ventricular muscle. The AV node cannot convey all the rapid atrial electrical activity, so ventricular contraction rate remains lower than the atrial rate, but still is abnormally fast. Any ventricular rate greater than 100 beats per minute (bpm) can be called a rapid ventricular response.

The results of an ECG may point to atrial fibrillation with RVR.
The results of an ECG may point to atrial fibrillation with RVR.

Rapid heart rate or tachycardia can strain the heart, and patients may experience shortness of breath or chest pain. Sometimes, a heart quivering or fluttering is reported. Many instances are asymptomatic, though, and are only identified when a patient receives an ECG. This problem is not a condition in itself, but a consequence of other health disturbances. Lung disease, congestive heart failure, or a history of cardiovascular disease increase the risk of a patient having such complications.

A rapid heart rate can strain the heart and cause patients to experience shortness of breath and chest pain.
A rapid heart rate can strain the heart and cause patients to experience shortness of breath and chest pain.

Atrial fibrillation with RVR is more likely to cause health problems if it becomes a chronic condition than if it occurs only once. As the atrial walls become dilated over time, the sensors of the physiological feedback system that monitors blood pressure there are affected, and hypertension may result. Fibrosis of the atria, the formation of excessive fibrous tissue, occurs during prolonged atrial fibrillation due to the formation of scars. Further, the rapid ventricular response might lead to ventricular fibrillation, a life-threatening condition if the RVR causes the contraction rate to exceed 300 bpm.

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    • A plastic cross-section of a human heart that displays both atria (top) and ventricles (bottom).
      By: Jenny Thompson
      A plastic cross-section of a human heart that displays both atria (top) and ventricles (bottom).
    • The results of an ECG may point to atrial fibrillation with RVR.
      By: olegpchelov
      The results of an ECG may point to atrial fibrillation with RVR.
    • A rapid heart rate can strain the heart and cause patients to experience shortness of breath and chest pain.
      By: hriana
      A rapid heart rate can strain the heart and cause patients to experience shortness of breath and chest pain.
    • Atrial fibrillation is a medical condition that involves an abnormal heartbeat.
      By: sudok1
      Atrial fibrillation is a medical condition that involves an abnormal heartbeat.
    • Nausea may occur as a result of atrial flutter.
      By: michaeljung
      Nausea may occur as a result of atrial flutter.