If you know you had a previously diagnosed heart condition and haven't received follow-up care or if you think you may have developed complications from a previously diagnosed heart defect, make an appointment with your doctor. You'll likely be referred to a doctor trained in diagnosing and treating 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 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 and details of any previous surgeries.
- Make a list of all current medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all of 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's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- What treatments are available? Which do you recommend for me?
- Are there any diet or activity restrictions that I need to follow?
- 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 these conditions together?
- Should I see a specialist? Can you recommend someone with experience caring for adults with congenital heart defects?
- Do you have 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 additional 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 reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
April 01, 2016
- What symptoms are you experiencing, and how long have you had them?
- Do your symptoms come and go, or do you have them all the time?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, worsens 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, do you use tobacco, and how physically active are you?
- Bonow RO, et al. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 20, 2013.
- Kempny A, et al. Meeting the challenge: The evolving global landscape of adult congenital heart disease. International Journal of Cardiology. 2013;168:5182.
- Zomer AC, et al. Adult congenital heart disease: New challenges. International Journal of Cardiology. 2013;168:105.
- What are congenital heart defects? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/chd/. Accessed Dec. 20, 2013.
- Before pregnancy. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/women/pregnant-women/before-pregnancy.html. Accessed Dec. 20, 2013.
- Overview of congenital cardiovascular anomalies. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pediatrics/congenital_cardiovascular_anomalies/overview_of_congenital_cardiovascular_anomalies.html. Accessed Dec. 22, 2013.
- Lifestyle changes for heart failure. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartFailure/PreventionTreatmentofHeartFailure/Lifestyle-Changes-for-Heart-Failure_UCM_306341_Article.jsp. Accessed Dec. 26, 2013.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Dec. 20, 2013.
- Riggin EA. Decision Support System. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Jan. 9, 2014.