"This book is incredibly complete and easy-to-understand for anybody. I certainly recommend it for patients who want to know more about atrial fibrillation than what they will learn from doctors...."

Pierre Jaïs, M.D. Professor of Cardiology, Haut-Lévêque Hospital, Bordeaux, France

"Dear Steve, I saw a patient this morning with your book [in hand] and highlights throughout. She loves it and finds it very useful to help her in dealing with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Wilber Su Cavanaugh Heart Center, Phoenix, AZ

"Your book [Beat Your A-Fib] is the quintessential most important guide not only for the individual experiencing atrial fibrillation and his family, but also for primary physicians, and cardiologists."

Jane-Alexandra Krehbiel, nurse, blogger and author "Rational Preparedness: A Primer to Preparedness"


"Steve Ryan's summaries of the Boston A-Fib Symposium are terrific. Steve has the ability to synthesize and communicate accurately in clear and simple terms the essence of complex subjects. This is an exceptional skill and a great service to patients with atrial fibrillation."

Dr. Jeremy Ruskin of Mass. General Hospital and Harvard Medical School

"I love your [A-fib.com] website, Patti and Steve! An excellent resource for anybody seeking credible science on atrial fibrillation plus compelling real-life stories from others living with A-Fib. Congratulations…"

Carolyn Thomas, blogger and heart attack survivor; MyHeartSisters.org

"Steve, your website was so helpful. Thank you! After two ablations I am now A-fib free. You are a great help to a lot of people, keep up the good work."

Terry Traver, former A-Fib patient

"If you want to do some research on AF go to A-Fib.com by Steve Ryan, this site was a big help to me, and helped me be free of AF."

Roy Salmon Patient, A-Fib Free; pacemakerclub.com, Sept. 2013


Primary Care Doctor Ignorant of Electrophysiology?

I recently received an email from an A-Fib.com reader relaying a unexpected experience and asking my advice:

“When I was talking with my primary care doctor, he wasn’t sure what an ‘Electrophysiologist (EP)’ was or even if they were regular doctors. I had to explain how an Electrophysiologist (EP) is a cardiologist who specializes in heart rhythm problems, and is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology, and more importantly in Electrophysiology.

No wonder they didn’t refer me to an EP.

How widespread is this problem? How can we make the A-Fib community more aware of this?”

For decades, drug therapy was the traditional treatment for A-Fib. Today, it’s still common for a primary care doctor or general practitioner to treat A-Fib patients with rate and rhythm control medications rather than referring them to a heart rhythm specialist.

Treatment alternatives 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 a first-line therapy for A-Fib patients (see the AHA/ACC/HRS. 2014 Guideline for the Management of Patients With Atrial Fibrillation).

On the A-Fib.com website, one of our core tenets 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 or EP).

A-Fib is an Electrical Problem. 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).

Back in 2002 when we started the A-Fib.com website, our list of recommended electrophysiologists and medical centers offering catheter ablations to A-Fib patients had only seven facilities listed. Today, our Directory of Doctors and Facilities lists over 1,800 electrophysiologists and medical centers.

You can find an Electrophysiologist (EP) on your own; refer to our Finding the Right Doctor page and related readings; look for ‘board certified’ in ‘Clinical Cardiac Electrophysiology.

Speak out on A-Fib Forums: It is vital for A-Fib patients to seek out a heart rhythm specialist, i.e. an electrophysiologist (EP). (I often feel like John the Baptist in the desert trying to spread the word about EPs.) To help, you can post your comments and start a discussion on one or more of the online Atrial Fibrillation Support groups, groups such as Daily Strength Atrial Fibrillation Support Group and Facebook Group: Atrial Fibrillation Support Forum.

For a list of recommended groups see our page: A-Fib Online Discussion Groups and Message Boards.

References for this article

Should Newly Diagnosed See a Heart Specialist?

We’ve posted a new FAQ and answer for the newly diagnosed.

“Should I see a cardiologist for my A-Fib and not just my primary care doctor? He wants to prescribe medication. Should I also see a specialist?”

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 decades, drugs have been the traditional medical treatment of Atrial Fibrillation.

On the A-Fib.com website, a core tenet is to encourage patients to seek the advice of one or more heart rhythm specialists, i.e. a cardiologist with a specialty in electrophysiology (EP).

Since A-Fib is an electrical problem…

To read Steve full answer, go to Frequently Asked Questions by Newly Diagnosed Patients, Question #15.

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