About Heart Arrhythmia
Heart arrhythmia is a term used to describe any heart rhythm problem. When heart rhythm issues occur frequently or are impacting how you live your life, you may have an arrhythmia that needs to be treated or corrected.
Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life threatening. When the heart rate is too fast, too slow, or irregular, the heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart and other organs.
Your Heart's Normal Electrical System
To understand cardiac arrhythmia, it is best to understand how the heart's normal electrical system works.
The heart is a muscle that functions as a pump to circulate blood throughout the body. It is divided into right and left sides. Each side has an upper and lower chamber. The two upper chambers are the atria. The lower chambers are the ventricles.
Heart “beats” or contractions are synchronized. Each contraction is started by an electrical signal from an area in the right atrium known as the sinus node. This is the “pacemaker” of the heart. From the sinus node, the electrical current travels down to an area called the atrioventricular node. It then completes its circuit through the ventricles on a specific path. The heart muscle responds to the electric signal and contracts to pump blood to the lungs and body.
How Are Heart Arrhythmias Diagnosed?
We use the latest technologies to diagnose the many different types of heart arrhythmias.
- Holter or Event Monitors: a small, temporary wearable device that records your heart rhythm over a period of time, such as one day.
- Electrophysiology (EP) Study: Using a catheter inserted into a blood vessel in the groin or neck and moved up into the heart, an electrophysiologist studies your heart’s electrical system. He or she can purposely cause the abnormal heart rhythm in order to diagnose the problem.
- Implantable Loop Recorder: a small device placed underneath the skin that helps determine the cause of fainting. It can be used for up to several years.
Types of Cardiac Arrhythmia
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)
A problem in the heart’s electrical system that causes episodes of a rapid heart rate, often triggered by exercise or caffeine.
A slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute.
Quivering, chaotic motion in the upper chambers (atria) of the heart, usually due to an underlying medical condition.
Partial or complete impairment in the transmission of signals from the heart's upper chambers to its lower chambers, resulting in the improper beating of the heart.
A slowed or disrupted electrical signal as it moves through the heart.
An abnormally rapid heart rhythm that originates from one of the lower chambers of the heart (ventricle).
Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)
A condition where the heart has an extra electrical pathway, leading to episodes of a very fast heartbeat.
Manifest as premature atrial or ventricular contractions (PACs or PVCs).