CardioSpecialists Group, Ltd.
What Is Arrhythmia?
More commonly known as an irregular heartbeat, arrhythmia is not a disease itself, but it can be a symptom of a potential larger problem with the heart. Normally, the heart beats between 60 and 100 times per minute, but with arrhythmia, the heart beats too fast or too slow. These forms of arrhythmia are known as: tachycardia (too fast) or bradycardia (too slow). There are several causes for arrhythmia, and temporary irregularity in your heartbeat does not pose a threat, but if your heart rate is too fast or too slow for too long, permanent damage to the heart muscle can occur.
What Causes Arrhythmia?
There are several factors which could lead to arrhythmia, but most of them deal with the system of electrical impulses which tell the heart when to beat. The most common causes of arrhythmia are: the sinoatrial node cells do not operate properly to send impulses, a problem with the impulses sent through the atrioventricular node or the ventricles, there could be another pathway in the electrical system which should not be there, or impulses from other parts of the heart could be interfering with the main system. The causes of any of the above could be from birth, medications, prior heart disease, or abnormalities in the heart.
What Are the Symptoms?
If you experience any of the following symptoms, you should
discuss it with your doctor:
-shortness of breath
-angina (chest pain)
-dizziness, fainting, or excessive tiredness
How Is Arrhythmia Diagnosed?
The most common diagnostic test for arrhythmia is an electrocardiogram (EKG). This painless test takes only minutes and can be done in your doctor's office. A series of sensors are attached to your chest, and your heart rate is monitored with you either lying still or exercising on a treadmill (stress test). Other methods your doctor might use to get a better picture of your heart include: echocardiogram (heart ultrasound), electrophysiology study (EPS) (cardiac catheter procedure), or a tilt table test (used to study fainting spells).
How Is Arrhythmia Treated?
Treatment of arrhythmia is important. If left alone for years, it can cause damage to the heart. Depending upon the cause of your arrhythmia, your doctor might choose to treat the underlying cause or to regulate the heart rate. Lifestyle changes such as switching medications and avoiding stress and caffeine might be enough to solve your problem. If those techniques do not work, your doctor could use any of the following:
- Prescription medications such as: beta-blockers, calcium
channel blockers or inotropes (e.g., digoxin)
- Implanted pacemakers: Used most commonly to treat a heart rate that is too slow (bradycardia).
- Defibrillator implant: Most often used for a heart beat that is too fast (tachycardia).
-Cardioversion: This changes abnormal rhythms to normal with the use of a defibrillator.
-Electrophysiology study with catheter ablation: Tubes are inserted into the heart and abnormal areas which are causing the arrhythmia are destroyed, leaving the rest of the heart intact.
-Surgical procedures such as: Left cardiac sympathetic denervation (LCSD) and maze procedure