15. “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?”
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: Wednesday, July 15, 2015