Atrial fibrillation, a common arrhythmia, is responsible for considerable cardiovascular morbidity. Its management demands more than antiarrhythmic therapy alone, but must address the causes and consequences of the arrhythmia. Although remediable causes are infrequently found, a thorough search for associated heart disease or its risk factors results in better-informed patient management. Controlling the ventricular response and protecting from thromboembolic complications are important initial goals of therapy and may include the administration of aspirin in younger, low-risk patients. Older patients and those with risk factors for systemic embolism are not adequately protected from stroke complications by aspirin therapy alone. It remains controversial whether all high-risk patients should receive warfarin and at what intensity. Whether and how sinus rhythm should be restored and maintained poses the greatest therapeutic controversy for atrial fibrillation. The mortal risk of antiarrhythmic therapy is substantially greater in patients with evidence of heart failure. In such persons, the risks and benefits of maintaining normal sinus rhythm with antiarrhythmic medications should be weighted carefully. A definitive cure for atrial fibrillation remains elusive, but promising surgical and catheter ablation therapies are being developed.