Cardiac arrhythmia is characterized by abnormal heart rate or rhythm. It typically refers to a condition, where in the electrical activity that regulates heartbeat is irregular, slow or fast.
In many instances, cardiac arrhythmia may not produce any signs or symptoms. An abnormal heart rhythm gets diagnosed during a routine checkup, much before signs and symptoms appear. However, when symptoms are experienced, they include pain in chest, dyspnea, onset of tachycardia or bradycardia, flutter in chest, lightheadedness accompanied by dizziness and fainting.
A preliminary physical examination, along with a careful review of medical history would be done. This will be followed by various tests, which include:
In cases, when arrhythmia cannot be diagnosed with the above mentioned tests, then additional methods may be required. These include stress test, tilt table test and electrophysiological testing .
Often, arrhythmia would not require any treatment, unless the condition is causing severe symptoms which can eventually lead to serious complications. Treatment would depend on the type of arrhythmia that has set in. The following methods are employed:
Treatment for bradycardia: This is treated with pacemaker, if an underlying condition cannot be found. There are no medications for improving the heart beats and therefore pacemaker is the best option .
Treatment for tachycardia: Vagal maneuvers such as coughing, holding breath and straining, can help in normalizing the fast heartbeat. If this does not work, medications may be administered for lowering the heartbeat. Anti-arrhythmic medications are given to prevent onset of complications. In case of atrial fibrillation, cardioversion can be employed .
In addition to these methods, catheter ablation can also be conducted. In this, with the help of radiofrequency energy, a small part in heart tissue is ablated in order to destroy the point of arrhythmia origination .
Prognosis of the condition significantly depends on the type of arrhythmia that has set in. In addition, if prompt treatment is not initiated then cardiac arrhythmia can give rise to life threatening conditions. Individuals who have developed arrhythmia due to underlying condition such as, congestive heart failure or valvular disease have a poor prognosis if the condition is not effectively managed. When there is no structural deformity present, the prognosis is excellent .
Cardiac arrhythmia can be caused by several factors, which include hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, myocardial infarction, congenital heart disease, scarring of the myocardium due to myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy and electrolyte imbalance .
In addition to these factors, some other conditions can favor cardiac arrhythmia. These include stimulant drugs, overuse of products containing caffeine, alcohol consumption, medications taken for management of hypertension and other heart problems, smoking and drugs used for treatment of psychiatric disorders. Medications used for treating a type of arrhythmia can also pave way for development of another type of arrhythmia.
Cardiac arrhythmia is a common phenomenon and strikes the majority of the population across the globe. According to the statistics provided by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it was found that more than 600,000 sudden cardiac deaths are recorded each year. It has also been estimated that, about 50% of patients experienced sudden death as a preliminary manifestation of heart disease.
Irrespective of the type of arrhythmia that has set in, the pathophysiology follows any one of the 3 mechanisms; which include triggered activity, enhanced or suppressed automaticity and re-entry. Under normal conditions, the rhythm of heart is controlled by the sinus node, situated in the right atrium. The electrical impulses produced by the sinus node initiate each heart beat. Factors that interfere with the production of electrical impulses, favor the development of arrhythmia .
Tachycardias that originate in the atria include supraventricular tachycardia, atrial fibrillation, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and atrial flutter. The ones which originate in the ventricles include long QT syndrome, ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation .
Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help in preventing occurrence of cardiac arrhythmia. Individuals can improve their heart health by following an active lifestyle, along with consuming a healthy diet and maintaining healthy weight. Avoiding smoking, alcohol and limiting consumption of caffeine can also reduce the risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias.
In cardiac arrhythmia the heart may beat either too fast, too slow or it might beat irregularly. When the heart beat is more than 100 beats per minute, the condition is termed as tachycardia; when the rate is slower than 60 beats per minutes, the condition is termed as bradycardia. In majority of instances, arrhythmias are not life threatening; however, if it causes impairment of cardiac function it can lead to cardiac arrest .
Definition: Cardiac arrhythmia is defined as onset of abnormal heart rhythm or rate that occurs when there is some problem with the electrical impulses of the heart. In such a type of condition, the heart can either beat too fast, too slow or can be irregular.
Cause: Several factors that favor the development of arrhythmia include conditions of hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, diabetes, and heart attack, damage to heart tissue due to heart attack, alcohol abuse, stress, medications and hypertension.
Diagnosis: Cardiac arrhythmia is usually diagnosed with help of electrocardiogram. In addition, devices such as holter monitor and event monitor can also help detect abnormal heart beats for a 24 hour period or when symptoms are occurring. Echocardiogram is indicated to determine the size, motion and structure of heart.
Treatment: Bradycardia is treated with pacemaker, as no medications are available to treat slow heartbeat. Tachycardia is treated with help of vagal maneuvers, medications and cardioversion techniques. In many cases, catheter ablation can also be carried out.