If you think you may have atrial fibrillation, it is critical that you make an appointment with your family doctor. If atrial fibrillation is found early, your treatment may be easier and more effective. However, you may be referred to a doctor trained in heart conditions (cardiologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot to discuss, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your dietary intake. You may need to do this if your doctor orders blood tests.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to atrial fibrillation.
- Write down key personal information, including any family history of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure or diabetes, and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to understand and remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important, in case time runs out. For atrial fibrillation, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What's the most appropriate treatment?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- How often should I be screened for heart disease or other complications of atrial fibrillation?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist? What will that cost, and will my insurance cover seeing a specialist? (You may need to ask your insurance provider directly for information about coverage.)
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may save time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
March 18, 2015
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Atrial fibrillation (Afib). Heart Rhythm Society. http://www.hrsonline.org/Patient-Resources/Heart-Diseases-Disorders/Atrial-Fibrillation-AFib. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- What is atrial fibrillation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/af/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Cheng A, et al. Overview of atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Verdecchia P, et al. Blood pressure and other determinants of new-onset atrial fibrillation in patients at high cardiovascular risk in the Ongoing Telmisartan Alone and in Combination With Ramipril Global Endpoint Trial/Telmisartan Randomized Assessment Study in ACE intolerant subjects with cardiovascular disease studies. Journal of Hypertension. 2012;30:1004.
- Ganz LI. Epidemiology of and risk factors for atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Furie KL, et al. Oral antithrombotic agents for the prevention of stroke in nonvalvular atrial fibrillation: A science advisory for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2012;43:3442.
- What is cardioversion? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/crv/. Accessed Feb. 10, 2014.
- Naccarelli G, et al. Restoration of sinus rhythm in atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Phang R, et al. Anticoagulation prior to and after restoration of sinus rhythm in atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 19, 2014.
- Wann LS, et al. 2011 ACCF/AHA/HRS focused update on the management of patients with atrial fibrillation (updating the 2006 guideline): A report of the American College of Cardiology Foundation/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:223.
- Kumar K. Antiarrhythmic drugs to maintain sinus rhythm in patients with atrial fibrillation: Recommendations. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Ganz LI. Control of ventricular rate in atrial fibrillation: Pharmacologic therapy. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- What is catheter ablation? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ablation/. Accessed Feb. 20, 2014.
- Passman R. Radiofrequency catheter ablation to prevent recurrent atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Cheng A. Surgical approaches to prevent recurrent atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Manning WJ. Antithrombotic therapy to prevent embolization in atrial fibrillation. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 13, 2014.
- Xarelto (prescribing information). Titusville, N.J.: Janssen Pharmaceuticals; 2011. http://www.xareltorems.com/sites/default/files/pdf/xarelto_0.pdf#zoom=100. Accessed Feb. 20, 2014.
- Living with an arrhythmia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/arr/livingwith.html. Accessed Feb. 20, 2014.
- Prevention & treatment of arrhythmia. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/Arrhythmia/PreventionTreatmentofArrhythmia/Prevention-Treatment-of-Arrhythmia_UCM_002026_Article.jsp. Accessed Feb. 21, 2014.
- Riggin EA. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 18, 2014.
- Grogan M (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. April 7, 2014.