When to seek medical care

Individuals should call for treatment within 24 hours if they have atrial fibrillation that comes and goes, have previously been evaluated and treated, and are not experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, weakness, or fainting.

Patients should call their doctor or cardiologist if they have persistent atrial fibrillation while on medical therapy for the condition if symptoms worsen or new symptoms such as fatigue or mild shortness of breath occur.

Patients should call their doctor or pharmacist if they have questions about medications and dosages.

Call 9-1-1 for emergency medical services when atrial fibrillation occurs with any of the following:

  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Fainting or light headedness
  • Weakness
  • Very rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Low blood pressure

Not all heart palpitations are atrial fibrillation, but a continuing feeling of heart fluttering in the chest together with a fast or slow pulse should be evaluated by a doctor or at a hospital emergency department. For example, the patient could be having atrial flutter (rapid, regular electrical impulses of about 250-300 impulses per minute from the atrial tissue causing a rapid ventricular response [rvr] or rapid heartbeat) or a sinus tachycardia.

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