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Atrial fibrillation: Key coding considerations


Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. It may happen occasionally with symptoms that come and go, last for a few minutes to hours, and then stop on its own. With chronic atrial fibrillation, the arrhythmia is always present.

Atrial fibrillation is more common as adults get older. While many cases  have no symptoms, occasionally there may be heart palpitations, irregular pulse, shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, light-headedness or fainting.

Although not as common, teens can also have symptoms of atrial fibrillation. It can be a single, isolated event or a sign of an underlying condition if repeated episodes follow. Pediatric patients are almost always symptomatic with palpitations prior to a serious event such as cardiac arrest. A single event for an otherwise healthy heart can be triggered by drug or alcohol use, or even exercise.

NEXT PAGE: The ICD-9 and ICD-10 codes for atrial fibrillation 



American Health Association/American College of Cardiology. AHA/ACC Pocket Guideline. Management of patients with atrial fibrillation. 2011. Accessed March 5, 2015. 

Ahmad Y, Kirchhof P. Gone fishing (for silent atrial fibrillation). Circulation. 2013;127(8):870-872.

Atrial Fibrillation Association. Atrial Fibrillation. Preventing a Stroke Crisis. Chapter 8 – Current challenges. Accessed April 8, 2015. 

Colilla S, Crow A, Petkun W, et al. Estimates of current and future incidence and prevalence of atrial fibrillation in the U.S. adult population. Am J Cardiol. 2013;112(8):1142-1147.

Doheney K. Atrial fibrillation patients and doctors have a communication gap. Accessed April 8, 2015. 

January CT, Wann LS, Alpert JS, et al. 2014 AHA/ACC/HRS guideline for the management of patients with atrial fibrillation. Circulation. 2014;130(23):e199-e267.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Explore atrial fibrillation. Accessed March 5, 2015. 

National Stroke Association. Act FAST. Accessed April 8, 2015. 

Reynolds M, Essebag V. Economic burden of atrial fibrillation: implications for intervention. Accessed March 4, 2015. New analysis illustrates the hidden burden of atrial fibrillation on healthcare spending and resources in each state. March 22, 2011. Accessed March 4, 2015. 

United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Atrial fibrillation fact sheet. Accessed March 4, 2015.

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Jennifer N. Lee, MD, FAAFP
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