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Paroxysmal Atrial Fibrillation and Brain Freeze: A Case of Recurrent Co-Incident Precipitation From a Frozen Beverage

Nelya Lugovskaya, David R. Vinson

(Department of Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior, University of California, Davis, CA, USA)

Am J Case Rep 2016; 17:23-26

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.896035

Published: 2016-01-13


BACKGROUND: Episodes of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation may be precipitated by the rapid ingestion of ice-cold foods and beverages. This condition has received little research attention, and its true prevalence is poorly described. Treating physicians may not identify cold ingestion as a causal factor of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, thus compromising both history taking and patient education.
CASE REPORT: We report a case of a healthy young-adult man who drank a slushed ice beverage that immediately induced atrial fibrillation and a brain freeze headache simultaneously. This occurred on two separate occasions, years apart. During both episodes, the acute brain freeze self-resolved quickly, but the new-onset palpitations occasioned a visit to the emergency department for diagnosis and treatment. The emergency physicians failed to make the causal link between the cold drink and the atrial dysrhythmia. Though the brain freeze headache and paroxysmal atrial fibrillation were both precipitated by rapid ingestion of an ice-cold beverage, the mediating mechanisms are distinct. We review these two cold-induced conditions, their prevalence, and their probable mechanisms.
CONCLUSIONS: The recurrent simultaneous occurrence of brain-freeze headache with paroxysmal atrial fibrillation identifies the ingestion of a frozen beverage as the precipitant of the atrial dysrhythmia. Increasing physician awareness of cold ingestion as a cause of paroxysmal atrial fibrillation will improve history taking and patient education.

Keywords: Atrial Fibrillation - etiology, Adult, Beverages - adverse effects, Freezing - adverse effects, Headache - etiology, Humans, Male, Recurrence



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