The heart has its own electrical system that controls its rhythm, or beating. An arrhythmia is a condition in which the electrical activity of the heart is irregular or is faster or slower than normal.
Treatment of Arrhythmias
Most arrhythmias can be treated. There are many types of arrhythmias and arrhythmia disorders, so proper diagnosis and treatment planning is crucial. Our team of board-certified physicians includes electrophysiologists, cardiac surgeons and other heart and vascular specialists who work together to diagnose and treat arrhythmias and related heart disorders.
Diagnosis may include electrophysiology studies, cardiac MRI, event monitors and tilt table tests. Treatment is performed in the Heart and Vascular Center's electrophysiology lab.
The two main types of arrhythmias are:
- Bradycardia (a slow heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute)
- Tachycardia (a rapid heart rate of more than 100 beats per minute)
Some arrhythmias originate in the atria (the two upper chambers of the heart), while others originate in the ventricles (the two lower chambers of the heart).
Arrhythmias Originating in the Atria
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is when uncoordinated electrical signals, emitted in the atria, cause the atria to quiver instead of beating normally. AF increases the risk of stroke and can lead to congestive heart failure.
Atrial flutter is another, more organized form of arrhythmia that occurs when rapidly fired signals cause the muscles in the atria to contract quickly, leading to a fast, steady heartbeat.
Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), which involves both the ventricles and the atria, is not life-threatening but may cause symptoms. A series of early beats in the atria speeds up the heart rate.
Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is an abnormal pathway between the atria and ventricles that causes electrical signals to arrive at the ventricles too soon and to be transmitted back to the atria. Rapid heart rates may develop.
Arrhythmias Originating in the Ventricles
Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a fast heart rate that starts in the ventricles. VT may or may not be life-threatening. VT may have many causes including cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease), coronary artery disease, valvular disease, an isolated rhythm problem or a genetic condition. Treatment is more complex and may involve treating heart failure in addition to treating the arrhythmia.
Ventricular fibrillation is when disordered electrical activity causes the ventricles to contract in a rapid, unsynchronized manner. Sudden death follows unless immediate medical help is provided.
Heart Disorders Related to Arrhythmias
Adams-Stokes disease is a transient condition caused by a heart rhythm disorder, in which the normal electrical signal that passes from the heart's upper to lower chambers is interrupted.
Bundle branch block is a delay or obstruction in the transmission of the heart's electrical impulses that impairs the heart’s ability to pump efficiently.
Long Q-T syndrome is a hereditary disorder of the heart's electrical rhythm that involves repeated fainting and a high risk of cardiac arrest.
Syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness (fainting), usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain.