Early AFib Diagnosis Is Key to Proper Care
“Wow, that is a rare lung disease. I have heard of lymphocytic interstitial pneumonia [LIP], but I have never known or treated anyone with this disease. Your case will be interesting.”
That’s what my cardiologist said when I went for my first consultation regarding my hospital stay for symptoms of atrial fibrillation with rapid ventricular response (AFib-RVR). With this condition, both the upper and lower chambers of the heart respond to the same faulty electrical signals and beat chaotically, resulting in a faster heart rate. I wrote about that hospitalization in a past column.
I have read several studies about heart disease and its connection to lung disease. Not long ago I read a 2018 article by Joana Carvalho on COPD News Today titled “Hospitalized COPD Patients with AFib More Likely to Develop Complications, Study Reports.” Then I read another 2018 article on Sarcoidosis News by Ana Pena, PhD, titled “Sarcoidosis Patients More Likely to Develop Heart Rhythm Disorders, Large Retrospective Study Finds.” These got me thinking about my own struggle with heart arrhythmia.
With concern, I asked my cardiologist if my LIP could’ve led to my heart arrhythmia. He answered that the arrhythmia is a serious side effect associated with LIP. This isn’t the first time LIP has gifted me with a serious condition. My pulmonary fibrosis is a result of the many complications that are part of the disease.
I’m pleased that my AFib diagnosis was early, so that I could receive the proper care I need.
I often felt heart palpitations, but I always thought they were due to my lung disease, with me not getting enough oxygen. I never allowed myself to think of any other illness beyond my lungs.
It’s been hard to find a treatment that my doctors could agree on. Heart arrhythmia is difficult to treat alongside my pulmonary fibrosis. Blood thinners for the heart issue could cause fluid buildup in my lungs and increase the risk of bleeding and blood clots.
Devices and treatment
After looking at the charts from my ER visit, my cardiologist advised me that before deciding on a treatment regimen, we first needed to see how often my heart goes into AFib.
I was sent home with a portable heart monitor called the RX-1 mini. The monitor would be attached to the middle of my chest, just above my breasts, so that it could record my corresponding electrocardiogram data and send it to the monitoring center. They in turn would send all the data to my cardiologist to see if, at any time, I had AFib. I was to have the monitor for 31 days.
Unfortunately, the monitor could not accurately collect the data that my cardiologist was hoping to find.
The next step was to have a LUX-Dx insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) inserted into the left side of my breastbone. The implant is small, about the length of a paper clip. A small incision (about 3-4 cm, or 1.2-1.5 inches) is made, and a pocket is created under the skin. The ICM is placed in this pocket.
The ICM collects information on my heart rhythms and stores it. The device then sends the information through an app that’s installed on a mobile device I was given. Every night my implant connects to the mobile device, which is about the size of a cellphone, and sends that information to my cardiologist.
I am home now, waiting for my small incision to heal. It’s hard not to think about a small device with a wireless connection inserted into my body. It’s extraordinary how far technology has advanced. Data from the mobile device monitor are read monthly — unless my heart goes into AFib, at which time my cardiologist and I are alerted. This will allow me to know when I need to get to the ER.
Coping and moving forward
I wish it could be this simple for my lungs. I would love to have a wireless device activate them to work properly. I wonder if there will come a day when I won’t have to hear, “Wow! That’s a rare lung disease.” I am waiting for the day when I will hear, “Wow! Technology has found a cure!”
I write this column about my experience because while the AFib diagnosis is new to me, it’s common for patients with interstitial lung disease. Having an implant to record the rhythm of my heart has me flabbergasted. My health seems to be taking a roller-coaster ride: fierce to fun to scary.
To my readers, take control of your health. Become familiar with your body. Pay attention to your symptoms. An early diagnosis can open the doors to critical care and treatment.
If you have any concerns or feel you may have symptoms of AFib, see your physician immediately. To learn more about the procedure for ICM, click here to see a short video.
Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.