AF Information & Advice For Patients
How do I find the right doctor to treat my AFib?
Atrial fibrillation is treated by different types of doctor. It is important that you are aware what treatments are offered before you decide who to see. Initially you will usually consult your general practitioner who may arrange some investigations before referring you to a cardiologist (heart specialist) – this cardiologist may or may not have a specialist interest in heart rhythm disorders. After appropriate diagnosis, some patients will respond to medication and in this case it may be that no further treatment will be required.
Cardiologists who specialize in heart rhythm disorders will usually also be referred to as an electrophysiologist (EP) – this type of doctor will offer ablation treatments, and some will perform large numbers of ablation procedures for AFib. If you are seen by a general cardiologist, you may be referred on to see an electrophysiologist, but if this is not offered you can request specialist referral from either your general practitioner or cardiologist.
The outcomes from AFib ablation, as with many other procedures, are generally better in more experienced hands. Before proceeding with ablation you should ask the electrophysiologist about his / her personal level of experience and results. A team approach to AFib ablation is important and you should also ask about the number of cases performed in the hospital where you will have the procedure. An electrophysiologist who has a specialist interest in atrial fibrillation ablation will usually perform over 50 procedures of this type per year.
It is your right to see a specialist of your choice at a heart center of your choice; you do not have to accept the first specialist or hospital offered.
To summarize, these are the services typically offered by each type of doctor:
General Practitioner - overall responsibility for patient care and prescription of medication. May offer simple investigations and monitoring of anticoagulation therapy
General Physician / Cardiologist – investigation of heart disease, initiation and monitoring of drug treatment, cardioversion
Electrophysiologist – all aspects of heart rhythm diagnosis and treatment, including ablation procedures. Some electrophysiologists perform a high volume of ablation procedures for atrial fibrillation.
Key questions to ask your clinicians
Causes of AFib
- What is the cause of my atrial fibrillation? Do I need treatment for the causes and will it stop the AFib?
- Is there anything I can do to stop it or reduce the episodes?
- Can I exercise safely? What exercises will be most beneficial to me?
- Do I need to change my diet? Are there certain foods or drinks I should avoid?
- How will taking an anticoagulant affect my lifestyle, work or other commitments?
- Do I need to take an anticoagulant? Which anticoagulant would be best for me – why is this?
- How will my atrial fibrillation drugs interact with my other existing medications?
- Are there any alternatives to the medications you are prescribing, and if so what are they? How can I be assessed for these?
- What happens if I still feel unwell? When should I see or talk to my doctor?
- If I feel very unwell I normally go to the ER. Is this the appropriate thing to do?
- Is there an operation to repair my heart and stop the AFib?
- Should I consider cardioversion or a procedure such as ablation? What are the risks and benefits to the procedure?
- What should I expect during the recovery period?
Heart Rhythm Specialists
The Heart Rhythm Specialists website catalogues healthcare professionals ranging from doctors through to nurses and cardiac electrophysiologists, all of whom have an interest in heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias), such as atrial fibrillation (AFib), bradycardia and tachycardia.
To add your details to the global database, including specialist areas and hospital services, register at www.heartrhythmspecialists.org
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