What is an Arrhythmia?
Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms. When the heart’s electrical signals are faulty, the heart beats too fast, too slow or at the wrong times. Some arrhythmias are harmless, but others are more serious and need medical attention.
Symptoms of Arrhythmia
When you have a mild arrhythmia, you may have a premature or skipped heartbeat now and then. It may cause a quivering or fluttering sensation.
f you have a chronic (long-term) arrhythmia, it will eventually begin to alter the way your heart regularly beats, leading to more serious symptoms:
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Near-fainting or fainting spells
- Pounding in the chest or rapid heartbeat
- Pressure or pain in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Weakness or fatigue
- Sudden cardiac arrest, a deadly condition in which the heart stops beating
What Causes Abnormal Heart Rhythm?
Factors and health conditions that can cause abnormal heart rhythms include:
- Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
- Blocked arteries
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart abnormalities and heart muscles changes
- High blood pressure
- Low levels of potassium or other electrolytes
- Certain prescription medications and over-the-counter allergy medications
- Sleep apnea
- Some nutritional supplements
- Thyroid problems
Diagnosing an Abnormal Heartbeat
Arrhythmias can be life-threatening if left untreated. Make an appointment with an AnMed doctor for a physical exam if you think you may have an abnormal heart rhythm. If your doctor suspects an arrhythmia, you will have one or more of these tests to identify the cause:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG) – Measures your heart’s electrical activity for a few moments
- Event monitor (portable EKG device) – Records arrhythmia symptoms when you push a button on a wearable device
- Holter monitor – Tracks your heart’s rhythm continuously for 24 hours
- Stress test – Shows how your heart responds as you perform physically challenging tasks, like jogging or walking
- Tilt table test – Shows your doctor the changes your nervous system and heart experience when altering the angle of your body.
- CardioInsight™ heart mapping – Maps the electrical systems of your heart and combines them with a computed tomography (CT) scan to produce a clear, 3D image of your heart
- Electrophysiology study (EP) – Threads long, thin, flexible wires through your blood vessels to the heart to record cardiac electrical activity
- Implantable loop recorder – Detects infrequent irregular heart rhythms with a device placed in your chest for up to three years
Types of Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Common types of heart arrhythmias are:
- Bradycardia – Slow heart rate
- Irregular or extra heartbeats
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – Abnormally fast heartbeats in the upper chambers of the heart
- Atrial flutter – Upper heart chambers (atria) beat too fast, but in a regular pattern
- Atrial fibrillation – Upper heart chambers (atria) beat too fast and in no regular pattern or rhythm
- Paroxysmal SVT – Episodes of rapid heart rate that start in the heart above the ventricles
- Ventricular tachycardia (VT) – Dangerously fast and irregular heartbeat
Look to AnMed for the advanced technology and treatments you need to help your heart beat more normally.
An electrophysiologist (arrythmia specialist) can place a device in your chest that sends out electrical signals to keep your heart rhythm at the right pace:
- Biventricular implantable pacemakers
- MRI-proof pacemakers
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs)
After you receive your device, our Cardiac Device Clinic will help it run smoothly for years to come.
Ablation safely destroys a tiny amount of heart tissue that transmits abnormal electrical signals. Before the procedure, your doctor may use a noninvasive CardioInsight Vest to locate the abnormal heart cells.
During the ablation, your electrophysiologist will thread a special wire carrying radiofrequency energy through a blood vessel and up to your heart. A type of real-time X-ray imaging called fluoroscopy shows your heart on a large monitor in the room. The wire burns away the tissue and cells in the heart causing the abnormal rhythm. This treatment takes only a couple of hours, and you can return home the same day.
AnMed Medical Center’s robot-assisted navigation system makes it easier to guide the ablation wire. This shortens the procedure time and reduces exposure to radiation from the X-ray imaging.
What to Expect After Arrhythmia Treatment
You can live well with arrhythmia if you get treatment and make lifestyle changes. Ask your doctor how to improve your overall health to increase your heart’s longevity and promote healthy rhythms. Regular checkups are important if your risk factors include a family or personal history of heart problems.