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Atrial fibrillation - discharge

Alternate Names

Auricular fibrillation - discharge; A-fib - discharge; AF - discharge

When You Were in the Hospital

You may have been in the hospital because you have atrial fibrillation . This condition occurs when your heart beats faster than normal or in an irregular way. You may have developed this problem while you were in the hospital for a heart attack , heart surgery, or other illness such as pneumonia .

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Treatments you may have received include:

  • Pacemaker
  • Cardioversion (this is a procedure done to change the beat of your heart back to normal. It can be done with medicine or an electric shock.)
  • Cardiac ablation

You may have been given medicines to change your heartbeat or slow it down. Some are:

  • Beta blockers, such as metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol-XL) or atenolol (Senormin, Tenormin)
  • Digoxin
  • Antiarrhythmics (medicines that control heart rhythm), such as amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone) or sotalol (Betapace)
  • Medicines that help prevent or treat abnormal heart beat

Taking Your Drugs

Have all of your prescriptions filled before you go home. You should take your medicines the way your doctor and nurse have told you to.

  • Tell your doctor or nurse about other medicines you are taking including over-the-counter medicines, herbs or supplements. Ask if it is okay to keep taking these. Also tell your doctor if you are taking antacids.
  • Never stop taking any of your medicines without first talking to your health care provider. Do not skip a dose unless your doctor tells you to.

You may be taking aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, or another blood thinner (such as Apixiban (Eliquis), Rivaroxaban (Xarelto), Dabigatran (Pradaxa)  to help keep your blood from clotting.

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If you are taking warfarin:

  • You will need to have extra blood tests to make sure your dose is correct.
  • You need to watch for any bleeding or bruising, and let your doctor or nurse know if it happens.
  • Tell dentist, pharmacist, and other doctors that you are taking this drug.

Lifestyle

Limit how much alcohol you drink. Ask your doctor when it is okay to drink, and how much is safe.

Do not smoke cigarettes. If you do smoke, your doctor or nurse can help you quit.

Follow a heart healthy diet.

  • Avoid salty and fatty foods.
  • Stay away from fast-food restaurants.
  • Your doctor can refer you to a dietitian, who can help you plan a healthy diet.
  • If you take warfarin, do not make big changes in your diet or take vitamins without checking with your doctor.

Try to avoid stressful situations.

  • Tell your doctor or nurse if you feel stressed or sad.
  • Talking to a counselor may help.

Learn how to check your pulse, and check it every day.

  • It is better to take your own pulse than to use a machine.
  • A machine may be less accurate because of atrial fibrillation.

Limit the amount of caffeine you drink (found in coffee, tea, colas, and many other beverages.)

Do not use cocaine, amphetamines, or any other illegal drugs. They may make your heart beat faster, and cause permanent damage to your heart.

When to Call the Doctor

Call for emergency help if you feel:

  • Pain, pressure, tightness, or heaviness in your chest, arm, neck, or jaw
  • Shortness of breath
  • Gas pains or indigestion
  • Sweaty, or if you lose color
  • Lightheaded
  • Fast heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, or your heart is pounding uncomfortably
  • Numbness or weakness in your face, arm, or leg
  • Blurry or decreased vision
  • Problems speaking or understanding speech
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, or falling
  • Severe headache
  • Bleeding

References

Camm AJ, Lip GYH, De Caterina R, et al. 2012 focused update of the ESC Guidelines for the management of arterial fibrillation; An update of the 202 ESC Guidelines for the management of atrial fibrillation; Developed with the special contribution of the European Heart Rhythm Association. European Heart Journal 2012;33:2719-2747.

Lafuente-Lafuente C, Mahé I, Extramiana F. Management of atrial fibrillation. BMJ. 2009;b5216.

Dobrev D, Nattel S. New antiarrhythmic drugs for treatment of atrial fibrillation. Lancet. 2010;375:1212-1223.

Updated: 1/11/2013

Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


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