Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
How much you can do to prepare for an appointment will depend on a few factors:
- If you are experiencing chest pain that lasts more than a few minutes, are having difficulty breathing or have had an unexplained fainting spell, have someone take you to the emergency room, or call 911 or emergency medical help.
- If you have any nonemergency symptoms that may be related to pericardial effusion or another heart condition, call your doctor.
- If you have nonemergency symptoms and were recently treated for a heart attack or had heart surgery of any kind, you likely have instructions for how to follow up with your heart specialist (cardiologist) or primary care doctor if you experience any complications.
If you have nonemergency symptoms and have time to prepare for your appointment, the following suggestions may help you make the best use of the time with your primary care doctor or cardiologist.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to your heart or breathing.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements, that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time. Some questions you might ask include:
- What is causing my symptoms?
- If I have a disease of the pericardium, can we determine the underlying cause?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- How severe is my condition?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage these conditions together?
- What treatment do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- When did you first begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- Have you recently had cold or flu symptoms?
- Do you have any chronic health conditions?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms? For example, is chest pain less severe when you sit and lean forward?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms? For example, are your symptoms worse when you're lying down? Are they worse when you're more active?
- Khandaker MH, et al. Pericardial disease: Diagnosis and management. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2010;85:572.
- Corey GR. Diagnosis and treatment of pericardial effusion. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Sept. 29, 2010.
- Martin M, et al. Pericardial disease. In: Libby P, et al. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2008. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4106-1..50073-X--cesec24&isbn=978-1-4160-4106-1&sid=1060858465&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4106-1..50073-X--cesec24&uniqId=220541604-3#4-u1.0-B978-1-4160-4106-1..50073-X--cesec24. Accessed Sept. 29, 2010.
- Cardiopulmonary syndromes (PDQ). National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/supportivecare/cardiopulmonary/healthprofessional. Accessed Oct. 1, 2010.
- Little WC, et al. Pericardial disease. Circulation. 2006;113:1622.
- Imazio M, et al. Diagnosis and management of pericardial diseases. Nature Reviews: Cardiology. 2009;6:743.
- Anderson CF (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Oct. 1, 2010.