Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

An atrial septal defect may first be detected when a suspicious heart murmur is heard during a routine examination. A heart murmur is an abnormal whooshing sound caused by turbulent blood flow. If your doctor suspects an atrial septal defect, you or your child will likely be referred to a doctor who specializes in disorders of the heart (cardiologist).

Because appointments can be brief, and there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and know what to expect from your doctor.

What you can do

  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
  • Write down questions to ask your doctor.

Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions can 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 septal defect, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:

  • What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests do I need? Do these tests require any special preparation?
  • Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the risks of cardiac catheterization or surgery?
  • Are there any alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Are there any activity restrictions that I need to follow?
  • 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 at any time.

What to expect from your doctor

Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:

  • When did you or your child first begin experiencing symptoms?
  • Have the symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • Do your symptoms get worse when you exercise?
  • Does anything else seem to make your symptoms worse?
  • Is there anything that seems to improve the symptoms?
  • Do you or does your child have any family history of heart problems?
  • Do you or does your child have any family history of birth defects?
Dec. 14, 2011