Preparing for your appointment

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you think you may have a heart defect, or you've developed complications from a previously diagnosed heart defect, make an appointment with your doctor. If you're having worrisome symptoms, such as chest pain or shortness of breath, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, 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 diet. If you're having imaging tests, for example, you may need to fast for a period of time beforehand.
  • Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to congenital heart disease.
  • Write down key personal information, including a family history of heart defects and any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Bring copies of your past medical records, including reports of any previous surgeries.
  • Make a list of all current medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
  • Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
  • Be prepared to discuss your diet and exercise habits. If you don't already follow a diet or exercise routine, be ready to talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started.
  • 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 congenital heart defects, 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 do I need?
  • What's the best treatment?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • What level of physical activity do you recommend?
  • What else can I do to take care of my health?
  • How often should I be screened for complications from my heart defect?
  • I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
  • Should I see a specialist? Can you recommend someone with experience caring for adults with congenital heart defects?
  • 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 that you don't understand something.

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:

  • What are your symptoms?
  • When did these symptoms develop?
  • 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?
  • Have you already been treated with medications or surgery for this condition?
  • What other medications, vitamins and supplements are you taking?
  • What is your typical daily diet?
  • How physically active are you?
  • Are you struggling with anxiety or depression? If so, are you being treated for these conditions?
  • Do you have any other health conditions?
May. 13, 2011