Arrhythmias are irregular heart beats that do not follow normal electrical pathways in the heart. A ‘normal arrhythmia’ is sinus arrhythmia which implies strong vagus activity in the heart. These rhythms may be found in healthy patients and is usually not a cause for concern or specific treatment. Bradycardia is a pulse that is under 60 beats per minute and may require treatment if you have symptoms of low cardiac output: fatigue, dizziness, syncope (passing out), worsening kidney function, impaired cognitive function. Tachycardia is an arrhythmia that is greater than 100 beats per minute. These rhythms may require treatment if you have intolerable symptoms such as palpitations, passing out, or other forms of impaired cardiac output.
What is atrial fibrillation?
Atrial fibrillation(AF) is an arrhythmia that is more common as we grow older. AF is an irregular heart beat that causes the top chambers of the heart, the atria, to beat too quickly. The electrical signals from the atria reach the bottom chambers (ventricles) in a non-rhythmic and irregular form. That is why AF is an irregular arrhythmia. It is usually a tachyarrhythmia that may or may not show symptoms. Symptoms include dizziness, palpitations, fatigue, racing heart, an others. Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke and should not be ignored. The patient will likely be asked to take a medicine to slow down the heart rate and a medicine to thin the blood (aspirin, warfarin, Coumadin, Pradaxa, Eliquis). The determination of whether a patient should take aspirin versus a stronger blood thinner depends on the risk of stroke. A scoring system called CHADS2 is used to help identify patients with higher risk of stoke. The risk factors for higher rate of stroke are: congestive heart failure (documented episode of heart failure- systolic or diastolic, or ejection fraction <40%), hypertension, age greater than 75, diabetes, and previous stroke. Go to atrial fibrillation section for a more detailed explanation.
What is supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
Supraventricular tachycardia is a waste basket term for any arrhythmia that originates in the top chambers of the heart. It includes atrial fibrillation, atrioventricular re-entrant nodal tachycardia (AVNRT), atrioventricular re-entrant tachycardia (AVRT), atrial tachycardia, atrial flutter, and others. Symptoms are the same as any tachyarrhythmia.
What is ventricular tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia is a term used to describe the origin of the arrhythmia from the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). These arrhythmias are irregular heart beats that may be potentially fatal. Symptoms include the same as any tachyarrhythmia, but tend to be more severe and intense. Treatments may include medicines such as an anti-arrhythmic, defibrillator, a combination of any from above.