Diagnosis what happens next?
Q)I’ve just been diagnosed with AF and I am really scared.
A)Yes the diagnosis is really scary isn’t it? Suddenly finding out there is something wrong with your heart when you have assumed it will just keep going forever, is a very scary moment in our lives. But be assured, this is probably the worst you are going to feel emotionally, as you learn more about AF and about the treatments and living with it, you will discover that:
•It’s almost certainly not life threatening (even if it feels that way)
•It is controllable, there are a lot of treatments for the condition
•A lot of people suffer from AF, more than you think,
•It’s not the end of the world, it is the start of a journey to learn how to cope with AF
•You could not be in a better place to start that journey and ask those questions, we are all AF sufferers or carers for AF sufferers in this forum.
Q) What tests can I expect?
A) A diagnosis of AF will normally be confirmed by a heart tracing called an electrocardiogram
(ECG). This may be performed at the time of your visit or for longer periods to look for episodes of AF. You may also need to have an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart) to access the overall function of the heart. Blood tests may also be required.
Q)I was diagnosed by my GP with AF and have been on the waiting list for the cardiology clinic for a very long time. I have been taking bisoprolol and aspirin daily. Should I ask my GP to chase up my appointment for a cardiologist consultation as I would hope that this may give me more and better options?
A) Yes ask your GP to follow up your referral to the cardiologist as there are many other possible treatments. At the moment the bisoprolol is keeping your heart rate down to an acceptable level during AF. The biggest risk for patients with AF is stroke as it makes one five times more likely to have one. Aspirin has little use in preventing strokes in AF and if you are at risk you should be on anticoagulation such as warfarin. If you look on the AF Association website there is a stroke risk calculator which you can do for yourself and workout if you are at risk. It depends on age and some other factors.
Cardiologists are generally plumbers and since AF is an electrical problem you ought to see an electrician. These are known as electrophysiologists and are cardiologists who specialise in rhythm problems. There is a list by area on the main website and you can request that your GP refers you.
Q) I have been diagnosed with AF and wonder if it is alright for me to drive. A friend says I must tell DVLA but my doctor says I don’t need to. Who is right?
A) Simply put, your friend is correct but don’t blame your doctor. Under the DVLA guide to medical practitioners it states that AF does not need to be reported. This means that the DOCTOR does not need to report your condition himself. Under the Guide to drivers it clearly states that AF does need to be reported but that driving may continue so long as the condition does not distract or cause incapacity. There is a simple form which you can ring up and ask for following which provided that you do not have black outs or fainting spells with AF then you will be allowed to continue driving. You must also tell your insurance company although anecdotal evidence tells us that they seldom if ever impose any extra premium. Travel insurance may differ of course.
Please also look at the publications on the main website which cover just about every subject AF as knowledge is power: