Coping with your Atrial Fibrillation means a patient and their family have many and varied questions. Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about dealing with the day-to-day issues of having Atrial Fibrillation. (Click on the question to jump to the answer.)
1. Specialist: “I like my cardiologist, but he has not talked about me seeing an Electrophysiologist [heart rhythm specialist]. Should I ask for a second opinion?”
2. Forewarning? “Is there any way to predict when I’m going to have an A-Fib attack?”
4. Progression of A-Fib: “How long do I have before my A-Fib goes into chronic or permanent A-Fib? I know it’s harder to cure. My A-Fib episodes seem to be getting longer and more frequent.”
5. A-Flutter: “They want to do an Atrial Flutter-only ablation, will that help if I possibly have A-Fib as well?”
6. Medical Marijuana: “Is smoking medical marijuana or using Marinol going to trigger or cause A-Fib? Will it help my A-Fib?
7. Action Plan: “During an A-Fib episode, when should I call paramedics (911 in the US) and/or take my husband to the hospital? I’m petrified. I need a plan.”
Related Question: “When my husband has an Atrial Fibrillation episode, what can I do for him? How can I be supportive?”
Related Question: “In case I have a stroke, what does my family need to know to help me? (I’m already on a blood thinner.) What can I do to improve my odds of surviving it?”
8. PVC/PACs: “I have a lot of extra beats and palpitations (PVCs or PACs). They seem to proceed an A-Fib attack. What can or should I do about them?”
9. DIY Monitors: “What kind of monitors are available for atrial fibrillation? Is there any way to tell how often I get A-Fib or how long the episodes last?”
Related Question: “My mom is 94 with A-Fib. Are there consumer heart rate monitors she can wear to alert me at work if her heart rate exceeds a certain number?”
10. Heart Rate: “Can I have A-Fib when my heart rate stays between 50-60 BPM? My doctor tells me I have A-Fib, but I don’t always have a rapid heart rate.”
Related Question: “My doctor says I need a pacemaker because my heart rate is too slow. I’m an athlete with A-Fib and have a naturally slow heart rate.”
11. Circulation: “Can I improve my circulation, without having to undergo a Catheter Ablation or Surgery? I’m in Chronic A-Fib. ”
12. Hereditary A-Fib: “Both my uncles and my Dad have Atrial Fibrillation. I’m worried. How can I avoid developing A-Fib? Can dietary changes help? Or lifestyle changes?”
13. Treatment choices: “How do I know which is the best A-Fib treatment option for me?”
Related Question: “In one of your articles it said that having an ablation was better than living in A-Fib. If your article means all types of A-Fib [including Paroxysmal], then I will consider an ablation.”
For the Newly Diagnosed
When diagnosed with Atrial Fibrillation, you need to find the best heart rhythm specialist (a cardiac electrophysiologist, or EP) you can afford.
From Michele Straub, now free of A-Fib after 30 years, comes this:
“My advice to those with A-Fib: Go to an electrophysiologist A-Fib expert right away, one with a high success rate at getting patients back into normal rhythm — you deserve nothing less.”
How to Find the Right Doctor
Go to our A-Fib.com page to learn how to find the right doctor for you and your treatment goals.
15. “Should I see a cardiologist for my Atrial Fibrillation and not just my primary care doctor? He wants to prescribe medication. Should I also see an A-Fib specialist?”
On the A-Fib.com website, a core tenet is to encourage patients to seek the advice of one or more heart rhythm specialists (a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm problems is called an electrophysiologist (EP).
It’s common for general practitioners to treat A-Fib patients with rate and rhythm control medications rather than referring them to a heart rhythm specialist. For centuries, drugs have been the traditional medical treatment for Atrial Fibrillation.
Alternatives to Drug Therapy. Change didn’t come until the pioneering research and procedures first developed by Dr. James L. Cox and Dr. Michel Haissaguerre (the Cox Maze surgeries in 1987 and pulmonary vein catheter ablation in 1996, respectively). Still, it has taken twenty years for Catheter Ablation procedures to be accepted as first-line therapy for A-Fib patients (see the AHA/ACC/HRS. 2014 Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation).
While most people have heard of a cardiologist, they aren’t familiar with the term ‘electrophysiologist’ (EP) or what they do. They don’t know that cardiologists focus on the vascular function of the heart while electrophysiologists (EPs) specialize in the electrical function (think ‘plumber’ of the heart vs. ‘electrician’ of the heart).
Since A-Fib is an electrical problem, ask your primary care doctor for a referral to an electrophysiologist (EP).
When appropriate, an EP can refer you to a surgeon if a Maze or Mini-Mage surgery should be considered.
Finding the Right Doctor for You. If need be, you can find an Electrophysiologist (EP) on your own. Just refer to our Finding the Right Doctor page and related readings. We step you through all you need to know to find the right doctor for you and your treatment goals. Any EP you see should be board certified in “Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology” and often will also be certified in “Internal Medicine” and “Cardiovascular Disease.”
Last updated: Monday, February 13, 2017