We are going to talk about how Afib is diagnosed and what medical tests are commonly done to evaluate patients that have, or may have, Afib.

How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done?

Diagnosing Afib can be a challenge because it can come and go, which is called paroxysmal Afib. Also, for many people, they do not have symptoms when in Afib, so they are not aware that they have it.

Diagnosing Afib can be a challenge because it can come and go, which is called paroxysmal Afib. Also, for many people, they do not have symptoms when in Afib, so they are not aware that they have it.

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Two common scenarios on opposite ends of the spectrum would be:

  1. A patient is noted to be in Afib during a routine health evaluation and had no idea because they never had symptoms. Or alternatively:
  2. A patient with intermittent symptoms of fast heart rate or palpitations, but the symptoms are too brief or intermittent to be evaluated by a healthcare professional.

Tests to diagnose Afib

The diagnosis of Afib is based on the history, physical examination, and, most commonly, an ECG (also called an EKG or electrocardiogram). An ECG is a recording of the electrical signals of the heart, and the typical features of Afib on an ECG are an absence of P waves and an irregularly irregular rhythm that is often fast. Afib can also be diagnosed by other ways of measuring the electrical signals of the heart, such as ambulatory rhythm monitoring (for example, Holter monitors, event, and implanted loop recorders). And some pacemakers and defibrillators can also diagnose Afib.

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An ECG is a recording of the electrical signals of the heart, heart monitor diagnosing afib
An ECG is a recording of the electrical signals of the heart, and the typical features of Afib on an ECG are an absence of P waves and an irregularly irregular rhythm that is often fast.

Besides an ECG and rhythm monitoring, other testing that MAY help assess someone with Afib are:

  • Lab blood testing to include a blood count, electrolytes, kidney, liver, and thyroid function
  • A chest x-ray if lung disease or heart failure is suspected.
  • A transthoracic echocardiogram or ultrasound of the heart to evaluate the heart structure, including the size of the atria, the pressures in the heart and to detect any heart valve issues.
  • A transesophageal echocardiogram or TEE, which is when the echo imaging device is placed in the esophagus or food tube while the patient is typically sedated. A TEE is often the most effective way to assess for blood clots in the heart.
  • Sometimes exercise testing is used to assess heart rate control.

Afib can be challenging to diagnose, and the evaluation can involve multiple tests. Good communication between you and your doctor is essential to make sure you understand how your Afib is being assessed.

How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done? How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done? How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done? How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done? How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done? How Afib is Diagnosed and What Medical Tests Are Commonly Done?

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