Symptom Representation and Treatment-Seeking Prior to Diagnosis of Atrial Fibrillation

Pamela J. McCabe, Alanna M. Chamberlain, Lori Rhudy, Holli A. DeVon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Early treatment-seeking for symptoms of atrial fibrillation (AF) is critical to avert AF-related stroke and heart failure, but early treatment is hindered if symptoms are not accurately interpreted. The purpose of this research was to describe symptom representation and treatment-seeking responses prior to diagnosis of AF. For this descriptive study, 150 participants were surveyed to describe the type and temporality of symptoms, perceptions regarding the cause, seriousness, controllability of symptoms, and responses to symptoms prior to diagnosis. Participants’ mean age was 66.5 years, and 51% were female. Participants perceived symptoms as having nondisease-based causes, as not very serious, and as amenable to self-management. The majority took a wait and see response with 69% waiting more than 1 week after symptom onset to seek treatment. Lack of recognition of the seriousness of symptoms of AF and delayed treatment put patients at risk of poorer outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)200-215
Number of pages16
JournalWestern journal of nursing research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Funding for this research was provided by the Midwest Nursing Research Society.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, © The Author(s) 2015.


  • Common Sense Model
  • atrial fibrillation
  • symptom representation
  • treatment delay
  • treatment-seeking


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