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When managing atrial fibrillation, medications are used to:

  • Prevent clots from forming or to break up an existing clot
  • Restore your heart’s rate or rhythm 
Rate controlling medicationsHeart rhythm controlling medications
  • Used to slow the heart rate during AFib
  • May relieve symptoms caused by a fast heart rate
  • Examples include:
    • Beta-blockers
    • Calcium channel blockers
    • Digoxin (brand: Lanoxin)
  • Used to return the heart to its normal rhythm and keep AFib from returning
  • May relieve symptoms caused by an irregular heart rate
  • Examples include:
    • Flecainide
    • Propafenone
    • Dronedarone
    • Sotalol
    • Dofetilide
    • Amiodarone

Medications to prevent or treat blood clots and stroke include blood thinners, also called anticoagulants, for example:

  • Warfarin (brand name: Coumadin, Jantoven)
  • Dabigatran (brand: Pradaxa)
  • Rivaroxaban (brand: Xarelto)
  • Apixaban (brand: Eliquis) 
  • Edoxaban (brand: Savaysa)

Talk with your care team about which blood thinner is right for you. Keep in mind that if you take a blood thinner, you must be very cautious about falls and other accidents that might cause bleeding. There are medicines or antidotes that can reverse the blood-thinning power of warfarin, but those don't exist yet for the newer medications. 

Read More: Blood thinners to prevent stroke

You might also have limits on what you can eat. For example, foods like spinach, kale and other vegetables are rich in vitamin K, which can disrupt the way warfarin works. That’s why you have to be careful to eat the same amount every day if you take warfarin. You also need to have your blood checked often when taking this medicine (called your INR/PT).  

If you have major bleeding on a blood thinner, your care team may talk with you about a procedure that closes the left atrial appendage – a common location for clots in patients with atrial fibrillation.

  • Last Edited 05/03/2022