Atrial Fibrillation - Complications

What are the complications of atrial fibrillation?

An increased risk of having a stroke (or other blood clot problem)

The main complication of AF is an increased risk of having a stroke. AF causes turbulent blood flow in the heart chambers. This sometimes leads to a small blood clot forming in a heart chamber.

A clot can travel through the blood vessels until it becomes stuck in a smaller blood vessel in the brain (or sometimes in another part of the body). Part of the blood supply to the brain may then be cut off, which causes a stroke.

The individual risk of developing a blood clot and having a stroke depends on various factors. The level of risk can be calculated by your doctor using a set of specific questions. This will help to decide what treatments are required. All people except those at the lowest risk will be offered medication to help prevent clots from forming.

For more information, see separate leaflet called Preventing Stroke When You Have Atrial Fibrillation.

Other complications

Less common complications of AF include the following:

AF can also reduce the amount of exercise you're able to do. It has also been shown that AF can affect some brain functions like memory, attention and reasoning. AF can therefore have a big effect on your quality of life.

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Author:
Dr Colin Tidy
Peer Reviewer:
Dr Hannah Gronow
Document ID:
4198 (v46)
Last Checked:
21 October 2016
Next Review:
21 October 2019

Disclaimer: This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Patient Platform Limited has used all reasonable care in compiling the information but make no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details see our conditions.