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Question:

What does it mean if the "top half" of my heart quit working?

The top half of my heart quit working two years ago. Is the artificial heart program advancing enough to give me hope that there will be a fix soon?   

submitted by David from Wrangell, Alaska on 10/23/2012

Answer:

Mohammad Saeed, MDby Texas Heart Institute cardiologist, Mohammad Saeed, MD    

About 80% of the blood is pumped by the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). The rest of the blood is pumped by the upper two chambers (the atria). In certain conditions like atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers can stop contracting and stop contributing to blood flow. These conditions typically result in slight decline in cardiac output. The decline in cardiac output may cause mild to moderate symptoms but it does not have any effect on life expectancy. In about 30% of these patients, the drop in blood flow is so small that it's not noticeable and patients have no symptoms. In such patients, it is standard practice to leave them in atrial fibrillation and control the heart rate.     

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Updated October 2012
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