FAQ: How Is Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) Classified or Staged?

1 answer | Last updated: Sep 18, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

How is atrial fibrillation (A-fib) classified or staged?

Expert Answers

Dr. Leslie Kernisan is a senior medical editor at Caring.com and a clinical instructor in the University of California, San Francisco, Division of Geriatrics. She also provides housecalls and geriatric consultations in San Francisco.

Experts now classify atrial fibrillation, also called A-fib, into the following types:

  • Paroxysmal: This means the heart goes into A-fib but within seven days returns to a normal rhythm. The person may or may not experience symptoms during this time.

  • Persistent: This refers to atrial fibrillation that's lasted at least seven days but not more than a year.

  • Permanent: This refers to atrial fibrillation that's lasted more than a year. It can also refer to atrial fibrillation of several months' duration if attempts to return the heart to the normal "sinus" rhythm have either failed or won't be pursued.

Atrial fibrillation tends to progress from paroxysmal to persistent and permanent, especially as people get older.