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Patient education: Atrial fibrillation – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

Patient education: Atrial fibrillation – Discharge instructions (The Basics)

What are discharge instructions? — Discharge instructions are information about how to take care of yourself after getting medical care for a health problem.

What is atrial fibrillation? — The top 2 chambers of the heart are called the "atria." They pump blood into the larger bottom chambers, which then pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body. In atrial fibrillation ("A-fib"), the heart beats abnormally and the top chambers stop pumping blood as strongly as normal (figure 1). When this happens, the blood can form clots. Sometimes, the clots can travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

A-fib also increases the risk of other problems, including heart attack and heart failure.

You might need medicines to treat your A-fib. These can include:

Medicines to help control the rhythm and speed of your heartbeat

Medicines to keep clots from forming

If medicines do not work, you might need a procedure to treat your A-fib.

How do I care for myself at home? — Ask the doctor or nurse what you should do when you go home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you need to do to care for yourself. Ask questions if there is anything you do not understand.

You should also:

Take all of your medicines as instructed.

Follow your doctor's instructions to keep your blood pressure under control, if you have high blood pressure.

Quit smoking, if you smoke. Your doctor or nurse can help.

Get some physical activity each day. Even gentle activity, like walking, is good for your health.

Avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine.

Avoid cocaine, amphetamines, or other illegal drugs. These can make your heart beat faster and damage your heart.

Try to keep a healthy body weight. Having excess body weight can make A-fib symptoms worse.

What follow-up care do I need? — Your doctor or nurse will tell you if you need to make a follow-up appointment. If so, make sure that you know when and where to go. You might need to see a heart doctor (cardiologist).

When should I call the doctor? — Call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, call 9-1-1) if:

You have severe trouble breathing, or you pass out.

You have signs of a heart attack, which might include:

Severe chest pain, pressure, or discomfort with:

-Breathing trouble, sweating, upset stomach, or cold and clammy skin

-Pain in your arms, back, or jaw

-Pain that gets worse with activity like walking up stairs

You have signs of a stroke, which might include:

Numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg, especially on 1 side of the body

Confusion, or trouble speaking or understanding

Trouble seeing in 1 or both eyes

Trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination

Severe headache with no known cause

Call your doctor for advice if:

You have trouble breathing when talking or sitting still.

You feel your heart racing, and it does not stop after a while (for example, 1 hour).

You are lightheaded or more tired than normal.

More on this topic

Patient education: Atrial fibrillation (The Basics)
Patient education: Medicines for atrial fibrillation (The Basics)
Patient education: Heart failure and atrial fibrillation (The Basics)
Patient education: Stroke (The Basics)

Patient education: Atrial fibrillation (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: Stroke symptoms and diagnosis (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Jun 02, 2024.
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