• Talking to Your Doctor About Arrhythmias (Heart Rhythm Disturbances)

    You have a unique medical history. Therefore, it is essential to talk with your doctor about your personal risk factors and/or experience with arrhythmias. By talking openly and regularly with your doctor, you can take an active role in your care.
    Here are some tips that will make it easier for you to talk to your doctor:
    • Bring someone else with you. It helps to have another person hear what is said and think of questions to ask.
    • Write out your questions ahead of time, so you don't forget them.
    • Write down the answers you get, and make sure you understand what you are hearing. Ask for clarification, if necessary.
    • Don't be afraid to ask your questions or ask where you can find more information about what you are discussing. You have a right to know.
    • Is this arrhythmia benign, or is it a warning that a life-threatening event is pending?
    • Can you tell why I developed this arrhythmia?
    • How many people who have this type of arrhythmia die of sudden cardiac death?
    • Is there anything I can do to stop the arrhythmias?
    • How likely is it that this arrhythmia will lead to sudden death?
    • How rapidly do we need to act to prevent sudden death?
    • What are my treatment options?
    • Are there any alterative options?
    • What are the possible side effects of each treatment?
    • How long will treatment last?
    • Will I have to take medication for the rest of my life?
    • What activities are hazardous for me until this is under control?
    • Are there any activities that I will never be able to do again?
    • Are there any lifestyle changes I can make to help prevent the arrhythmia from recurring?
    • Should I carry something with me so people know I have an arrhythmia?
    • What chance is there that I can return to my former lifestyle after treatment?
    • Do I need to prepare my estate and family for the possibility of my sudden death?

    References

    Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 14th ed. McGraw-Hill; 1998.

    Mayo Clinic and Foundation for Medical Education and Research website. Available at: http://www.mayo.edu/ .

    Mayo Clinic Heart Center website. Available at: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-arrhythmias/HB00060 . Accessed on February 2, 2007

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/ .

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