Arrhythmia refers to a change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses that causes abnormal heart rhythms. These may be completely harmless or life-threatening. Some are brief and cause only a temporary pause or premature beat; however, they can also last longer which may cause the heart rate to be too slow or too fast. If the rhythm is erratic, the heart pumps less effectively. A heart rate of 100 beats per minute is considered fast (tachycardia); whereas, a rate of less than 60 beats per minute is considered slow (bradycardia).
Arrhythmia may occur when the heart’s natural pacemaker develops an abnormal rate or rhythm, the normal conduction pathway is interrupted, or another part of the hear takes over as pacemaker. In some conditions almost all heart tissue can start an impulse of the type that can generate a heartbeat, because cells in the heart's conduction system can fire automatically and start electrical activity. This activity can interrupt the normal order of the heart's pumping activity. Secondary pacemakers elsewhere in the heart provide a "back-up" rhythm when the sinus node doesn't work properly or when impulses are blocked somewhere in the conduction system.
What are the symptoms of arrhythmia?
Symptoms of arrhythmia, Atrial or SVT can include:
- light headedness
- rapid heartbeat or palpitations
- chest pain (angina), and/or shortness of breath
- in extreme cases, may cause unconsciousness or cardiac arrest
What if I am diagnosed with arrhythmia?
Some arrhythmias may be considered harmless and can be left untreated. However, if your physician diagnoses you with an arrhythmia, further testing may be necessary. A determination needs to be made on whether the arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat, is abnormal or merely reflects the heart's normal processes. If considered clinically significant or puts you at risk for more serious arrhythmias or complications of arrhythmias in the future then a treatment plan may be required in order to prevent blood clots from forming to reduce stroke risk. Treatment may be used to control your heart rate within a relatively normal range, restore a normal heart rhythm (if possible), treat the underlying heart disease/condition that may be causing arrhythmia, and reduce other risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
Additional treatment for arrhythmia include: medication, defibrillation, ablation, and pacemaker insertion.
Arrhythmia Treatment Center
One of the top centers in the United States, the Arrhythmia Treatment Center in Memphis, Tennessee includes use of the Automatic Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (AICD). The center is led by Dr. James Porterfield, named one of the Best Doctors in America for Cardiovascular Disease. Dr. Porterfield was also awarded the designation of Fellow of the Heart Rhythm Society. This is the highest category of membership and is based on research, published articles and contributions to the field of cardiology.
Methodist University Hospital’s Cardiovascular Institute is dedicated to the research and clinical care of Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats). Through the collaborative efforts with the leading Cardiologists and Electrophysiologists in Memphis, we provide state-of-the-art clinical and investigational therapy for patients with complex atrial and ventricular arrhythmias. Procedures incorporate the latest technologies including radiofrequency, laser catheter ablation, and other heart arrhythmia treatments.
To find a cardiologist or electrophysiologist in Memphis, Tennessee, please use our physician locator.