To diagnose atrial fibrillation, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, review your medical history, and conduct a physical examination. Your doctor may order several tests to diagnose your condition, including:
March 18, 2015
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). An ECG uses small sensors (electrodes) attached to your chest and arms to record electrical signals as they travel through your heart. This test is a primary tool for diagnosing atrial fibrillation.
- Holter monitor. This portable ECG device is carried in your pocket or worn on a belt or shoulder strap. It records your heart's activity for 24 hours or longer, which provides your doctor with a prolonged look at your heart rhythms.
Event recorder. This portable ECG device is intended to monitor your heart activity over a few weeks to a few months. You activate it only when you experience symptoms of a fast heart rate.
When you feel symptoms, you push a button, and an ECG strip of the preceding few minutes and following few minutes is recorded. This permits your doctor to determine your heart rhythm at the time of your symptoms.
Echocardiogram. In this noninvasive test, sound waves are used to produce a video image of your heart. Sound waves are directed at your heart from a wand-like device (transducer) that's held on your chest (transthoracic echocardiogram). The sound waves that bounce off your heart are reflected through your chest wall and processed electronically to provide video images of your heart in motion, to detect underlying structural heart disease.
Doctors may conduct a type of echocardiogram in which they insert a flexible tube with a transducer attached and guide it down your throat into your esophagus (transesophageal echocardiography). In this test, sound waves are used to produce images of your heart, which may be seen more clearly with this type of echocardiogram. Doctors may use this test to detect blood clots that may have formed in your heart.
- Blood tests. These help your doctor rule out thyroid problems or other substances in your blood that may lead to atrial fibrillation.
- Chest X-ray. X-ray images help your doctor see the condition of your lungs and heart. Your doctor can also use an X-ray to diagnose conditions other than atrial fibrillation that may explain your signs and 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.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.