Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is an abnormal rhythm of the heart and symptoms of it may or may not be seen. At times the doctor will discover it when performing a physical test or examination. A variety of tests for Atrial Fibrillation will be necessary to confirm an atrial fibrillation diagnosis and to figure out the reason for its cause. A primary physician like an internist or family practitioner may sometimes diagnose atrial fibrillation. However, it is important that you consult a doctor (Cardiologist) who specializes in treating and diagnosing heart conditions. Cardiologists who specialize in arrhythmias are known as electrophysiologists. Along with the tests, the doctor also goes though your family and medical history. This will involve detailed questions about the health problems, health habits and symptoms your family member or you have had. A few things the doctor will do during a physical exam are as follows:

  • Check your heartbeat to find out the rhythm and rate
  • Check your blood pressure and pulse
  • Listen to your lungs
  • Check for heart valve or muscle problems
The most helpful test for the diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation is electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). It is a painless and simple test that records the electrical activity of your heart. It shows the following:

  • Heartbeat speed
  • Heartbeat rhythm
  • Timing and strength of electrical signals going through various parts of the heart

Other tests include chest X-ray, blood tests, echocardiogram, event recorder and holter monitor.

  1. W.B Kannel, P.A Wolf, E.J Benjamin, D Levy, Prevalence, incidence, prognosis, and predisposing conditions for atrial fibrillation: population-based estimates, The American Journal of Cardiology, Volume 82, Issue 7, Supplement 1, 16 October 1998, Pages 2N-9N, ISSN 0002-9149, 10.1016/S0002-9149(98)00583-9.
  2. William B. Kannel, Emelia J. Benjamin, Current Perceptions of the Epidemiology of Atrial Fibrillation, Cardiology Clinics, Volume 27, Issue 1, February 2009, Pages 13-24, ISSN 0733-8651, 10.1016/j.ccl.2008.09.015.