How Do I Find the Right Doctor to Treat My AF?

Atrial Fibrillation is treated by different types of doctor's and it is important that you are aware what treatments are offered before you decide who to see. Initially you will usually consult your general practitioner who may arrange some investigations before referring you to a cardiologist (heart specialist) – this cardiologist may or may not have a special interest in heart rhythm disorders. After appropriate diagnosis, some patients will respond to medication and in this case it may be that no further  treatment will be required.

Cardiologists who specialize in heart rhythm disorders will usually also be called an electrophysiologist – this type of doctor will offer ablation treatments, and some will perform large numbers of ablation procedures for atrial fibrillation. If you are seen by a general cardiologist you may be referred on to see an electrophysiologist, but if this is not offered you can request specialist referral from either your general practitioner or cardiologist. 

The outcomes from Atrial Fibrillation ablation, as with many other procedures, are generally better in more experienced hands. Before proceeding with ablation you should ask the electrophysiologist about his / her personal level of experience and results. A team approach to Atrial Fibrillation ablation is important and you should also ask about the number of cases performed in the hospital where you will have the procedure. An electrophysiologist who has a special interest in atrial fibrillation ablation will usually perform over 50 procedures of this type per year.   

To summarize, these are the services typically offered by each type of doctor: 

  1. General Practitioner - overall responsibility for patient care and prescription of medication. May offer simple investigations and monitoring of anticoagulation therapy. 
  2. General Physician / Cardiologist – investigation of heart disease, initiation and monitoring of drug treatment, cardioversion. 
  3. Electrophysiologist – all aspects of heart rhythm diagnosis and treatment, including ablation procedures. Some electrophysiologists perform a high volume of ablation procedures for Atrial Fibrillation.