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Atrial Fibrillation (cont.)

Exams and Tests

An electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) is the best and simplest way to find out whether you have atrial fibrillation. An electrocardiogram is a recording of the electrical activity of your heart. It is usually done along with a medical history and physical exam. During your exam, your doctor will take your blood pressure to find out whether you have high blood pressure. Your doctor will also listen to your heart to see if you have a heart murmur.

If your doctor suspects that you have atrial fibrillation that comes and goes, he or she may ask you to use a device to record your heart rhythm on a continuous basis. This is referred to by several names, including ambulatory electrocardiogram, ambulatory EKG, Holter monitoring, 24-hour EKG, or cardiac event monitoring.

Your doctor may also recommend an electrophysiology (EP) study. An EP study can help your doctor see if there is a problem with your heartbeat (heart rhythm) and find out how to fix it.

Your doctor may do more tests to see whether you have damage to your heart or heart valves. An exercise electrocardiogram, also called a stress test, will help your doctor see whether you have coronary artery disease. An echocardiogram gives your doctor a lot of information about your heart. It can show whether your heart valves are damaged, how well your heart is pumping, and whether you have heart failure or have had a heart attack.

You may also have a blood test to check for hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone.

If you take warfarin (such as Coumadin) for atrial fibrillation, you will need to have frequent blood tests to monitor how long it takes for your blood to clot (prothrombin time).

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