Most people with an abnormal heart rhythm can lead a normal life if the arrhythmia is diagnosed correctly.
The main types of arrhythmia are:
- Atrial fibrillation (AF) – this is the most common type, where the heart beats irregularly and faster than normal
- Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – episodes of abnormally fast resting heart rate
- Bradycardia – the heart beats slower than normal
- Heart block – the heart beats slower than normal and can cause a collapse
- Ventricular fibrillation – a rare, rapid and disorganized heartbeat that quickly leads to loss of consciousness and sudden death if not treated immediately
Cardiac arrhythmia fast track
The innovative emergency Cardiac arrhythmia fast track service involves emergency cardiac service due to the occurrence of complications resulting from arrhythmia:
- Emergency admission
- Complete diagnostics and examinations
- Observation of the condition
- Cardiac intervention
Cardiac arrhythmia service involves admission, cardiac examination, diagnosis and treatment in a very short time.
After examinations and tests, within two hours when all the results arrive, we will have a clear picture of your condition. It depends on whether you will be discharged from hospital with the therapy, or you will be kept under observation and then discharged if the condition stabilizes, or we will suggest an emergency cardiac intervention.
The treatment for your arrhythmia will depend on whether it is a fast or slow arrhythmia or a heart block. All the underlying causes of your arrhythmia, such as heart failure, will also need to be treated.
Treatments used for arrhythmias include:
- Medications – to stop or prevent arrhythmia or to control the rate of arrhythmia
- Cardioversion – a treatment that uses electricity to return the heart to a normal rhythm while you are anesthetized or sedated
- Catheter ablation – treatment under local or general anesthesia that carefully destroys the diseased tissue in your heart that is causing the arrhythmia
- Pacemaker – a small device that contains its own battery that is inserted into your chest under a local anesthetic; produces electrical signals to do the work of a natural pacemaker in your heart to help it beat at normal speed
- ICD – a pacemaker-like device that monitors your heart rate and returns it to a normal rhythm whenever needed
Does age affect the occurrence of arrhythmia?
Arrhythmias can affect all age groups, but atrial fibrillation is more common in the elderly. Alcohol in excessive doses or overweight increases the likelihood of developing atrial fibrillation.
You may also be at risk of developing an arrhythmia if your heart is damaged by the disease – for example, if you have had a heart attack or heart failure.
Atrial fibrillation is a common cause of stroke. Patients with atrial fibrillation have the risk of stroke 5 times higher than someone whose heart rhythm is normal.
Certain types of arrhythmias occur in people with severe heart disease and can cause sudden death. Some deaths can be avoided if the arrhythmia is diagnosed in time.
Common triggers of arrhythmia are viral diseases, alcohol, tobacco, posture changes, exercise, caffeinated beverages, certain over-the-counter medications, and prescription and illegal recreational drugs.
How to reduce the risk of arrhythmia?
It is not always possible to prevent the development of arrhythmia, although a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of developing this heart condition.
You can also make lifestyle changes to avoid some triggers of heart rhythm issues.
The electrical system of the heart
Heart rate is controlled by electrical signals. Arrhythmia is an abnormality of the heart rhythm. It may beat too slowly, too fast or irregularly.
These abnormalities range from minor inconveniences to potentially fatal problems.
Symptoms of arrhythmia
Symptoms of arrhythmias include palpitations, dizziness, fainting, and shortness of breath, although these symptoms are not always a problem with heart rhythm.
If your symptoms persist or there is a history of unexplained sudden death in your family, it is important that your doctor refers you to a heart specialist (cardiologist or electrophysiologist who deals with heart rhythm disorders).
The most effective way to diagnose an arrhythmia is an electrical recording of your heart rhythm called an electrocardiogram (ECG). If the ECG does not find a problem, you may need further monitoring of your heart.
This may involve carrying a small portable ECG recorder for 24 hours or longer. This is called a Holter monitor or outpatient ECG monitoring.
If the symptoms appear to be triggered by exercise, you may need an exercise ECG to record your heart rate while using exercise bike.
Other tests used in the diagnosis of arrhythmias include:
- Cardiac event recorder – a device for recording occasional symptoms for a certain period of time whenever you have them
- Electrophysiology procedure (EP) – a test to locate issues with electrical signals in your heart by passing soft wires through a vein in your leg and into your heart while you are sedative
- Echocardiogram (Echo) – ultrasound examination of the heart