Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

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Atrial fibrillation is diagnosed by recording the heart’s electrical activity in order to detect the disorganised atrial expansion. This information is obtained by performing an electrocardiogram.

Electrocardiogram monitor

Complete 12-lead electrocardiogram (ECG). This is the most typical means of diagnosing atrial fibrillation, particularly in the case of long-lasting episodes. It reveals the heart’s electrical activity from different perspectives.

Holter test, Patient with electrodes in the chest connected to a portable device

Holter ECG. Occasionally, when the episodes are short-lived, longer records of the heart’s electrical activity must be obtained during the patient’s everyday routine. Holter monitors record a complete or simple electrocardiogram continuously over a period that usually ranges from 24 hours to 7 days. Although it is becoming increasingly common to detect arrhythmias using mobile apps based on pulse measurements, these methods are not considered valid for the diagnosis of atrial fibrillation.


Person with electrodes at a running appointment performing a stress test

Other tests. Depending on the results and always based on the doctor’s impression, they may request other tests such as blood tests, a stress test or a coronary angiography to identify obstructions in the coronary arteries or an electrophysiological study in an attempt to induce other arrhythmias.

Substantiated information by:

Alba Cano Valls
Eduard Guasch Casany
Josep Lluís Mont Girbau
Manel Castellà Pericas

Published: 27 November 2018
Updated: 27 November 2018

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