Q: Are there different types of atrial fibrillation?
A: After a first episode of atrial fibrillation is very important to distinguish whether the arrhythmia was spontaneous (normal heart) or induced by other causes. A careful analysis of symptoms can be of help. Of note, not all episodes of atrial fibrillation are felt/noticed by patients. This can make diagnosis difficult. In patients in whom there were at least two episodes of atrial fibrillation with spontaneous return to sinus rhythm within seven days, atrial fibrillation is called "paroxysmal" (sometimes referred to as “recurrent”). If the episodes last more than 7 days and/or a medical intervention is necessary to restore the normal heart rhythm, atrial fibrillation is classified as "persistent". In cases where medical interventions are ineffective and atrial fibrillation persists more than 7 days arrhythmia is defined as "permanent." Of note these categories are not mutually exclusive since a patient may experience transitions from one category to another.