Atrial fibrillation - discharge

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

You may have received any of these treatments:

  • Pacemaker
  • Cardioversion or electric shock to change the beat of your heart back to normal
  • Cardiac ablation

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

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

Taking Your Drugs

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

  • Ask your doctor or nurse if other prescription drugs or herbs or supplements you have been taking are okay to keep taking. Tell your doctor if you are taking antacids.
  • Never just stop taking any of these drugs. Do not skip a dos unless your doctor tells you to.

You may be taking aspirin or clopidogrel (Plavix), warfarin (Coumadin), heparin, or another blood thinner to help keep your blood from clotting.

See also:

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.
  • Your dentist, doctors, and pharmacist should all know you take this medicine.


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.

Learn more about what you should eat for a healthier heart. 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 change your diet significantly or take vitamins without checking with your doctor.

See also:

Try to avoid stressful situations. If you feel stressed or sad, tell your doctor or nurse. They may evaluate you and possibly refer you to a counselor.

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.

Reduce or stop drinking liquids with caffeine, such as 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 your 911 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

Alternate Names

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


Fuster V, Rydén LE, Cannom DS, Crijns HJ, Curtis AB, Ellenbogen KA, et al. American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines; European Society of Cardiology Committee for Practice Guidelines; European Heart Rhythm Association; Heart Rhythm Society. ACC/AHA/ESC 2006 Guidelines for the Management of Patients with Atrial Fibrillation: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines and the European Society of Cardiology Committee for Practice Guidelines. Circulation. 2006;114:e257-e354.

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.

Update Date: 3/6/2011

Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; 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, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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