Heart Arrhythmia: Test & Treatment

Cardiac catheter ablationIn continuation of Part One: What is a Heart Arrhythmia

If you have heart arrhythmia symptoms , you can get tested from your doctor. There are several test that can help diagnose whether someone has heart arrhythmia. A doctor will review your symptoms.  your doctor may ask you questions concerning conditions that may trigger a heart arrhythmia.  You doctor may conduct heart monitoring to see if there is a specific type of  arrhythmia you may have.

There are different types of test that the doctor may do, including:

  •  The Electrocardiogram or ECG, is a common test that uses electrodes sensors to detect electrical functions and activity of the heart. These sensors are attached to your chest and other limbs to measure the ECG in duration and timing of the electrical activity for every heartbeat.
  • The Holter monitor is a portable ECG device that can worn by a patient to monitor and record the heart activities as you the person conducts their normal day-to-day routine.
  • An Event Monitor will evaluate sporadic arrhythmia, these are are also portable ECG devices that are attached to the body and when you have symptoms you can press the button to notify your doctor and he/she will check your heart rhythm during the period you are experiencing symptoms.
  • An Echo-cardiogram is a none invasive test that uses a hand-held device called a transducer to be placed on the person chest to produce images of the heart’s size, motion and structure using a sound waves.

If your physician does not fine an arrhythmia during these test, he or she may trigger an arrhythmia with other test.

  • A stress test can trigger an arrhythmia, that can be worsened by exercise. During the stress test, your doctor will ask you to exercise on a stationary bicycle or run on a treadmill, while he/she monitor your performance.  The doctor will will then determine if it is coronary artery disease that may be causing the heart arrhythmia. If you experience difficulty exercising you doctor may use a drug to simulate the effects exercise have on the heart.
  • The Title Table test will be recommended if you have fainting spells. The heart rate and blood pressure is monitored, by lying flat on a table. The table is titled as if you were standing up and the doctor will observer how the heart responds along with  evaluating the nervous system, effects of changing the angle.
  • In the electroencephalography testing and mapping evaluation doctors thread thin, flexible catheters, or tubes, with electrodes through the blood vessels in various parts within the heart, Once theses are in place the cardiologist will use electrodes to stimulate the heart rates that may trigger and heart arrhythmia. This will also allow the doctor to see which part of the heart is causing the arrhythmia.

Treatments

In some cases treatment may not be needed. Treatment is only needed if the arrhythmia is causing significant symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, or putting you at risk of more serious complications.

Pacemaker
A dual chamber pacemaker paces the atrium and ventricle. A biventricular pacemaker paces both ventricles. An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator can function as a pacemaker would. In addition, if it detects ventricular tachycardia or fibrillation, it sends out a shock to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.

Treating Slow Heart Beats – If you have a bradycardia you don’t have to be corrected doctors will often treat this by using a pacemaker because there are not any medications that can reliably  speed up the heart rate. A pacemaker is a small device that can be implanted near the collarbone. One or more than electrode-tipped wires run form the pacemaker to the blood vessels to the inner heat. IF the heart rate is two the slow the pacemaker will send out an electrical impulse to stimulate the heart to beat at a steady rate.

Treating Fast Heart Beats

 

For Faster heartbeats or tachycardia’s, there are multiple treatments.

  • Vagal Maneuvers allow you stop an arrhythmia that begins in the lower part of the heart or supraventricular-tachycardia, by using a certain maneuvers that include holding your breath and straining, or dunking your face in water, even coughing. These maneuvers can affect the heart beat or vagus nerves, that will cause the heart rate to slow. These will only work on certain types of arrhythmia.
  • Medications may be prescribed to control the heart rate and restore in normal heart beat. It’s important that any anti-arrhythmic medication is taken under doctor supervision to minimize complications, for atrial fibrillation a doctor may offer blood thinners.
  • A Cardioversion can help with atrial fibrillation; this is a procedure or can be done via medication. The procedure involves delivering a shock to the heart through patches on the chest or paddles. The affect would be electrical impulses in the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
  • Catheter ablation is a procedure, in which the doctor threads more than one catheter through the blood vessels to the hart. The catheter tips will use coldness, heat or radio frequency energy to damage a small area of the heart tissue to create an electrical block along the defected pathway that is causing arrhythmia.

Implanted Devices:

The pacemaker can be implanted to help control heart rhythms. The device will be placed near the collarbone under the skin and is a minor surgical procedure. The insulated wire will extend to the heart. The pacemaker will detect failures in the heart rate, and emit electrical impulses to stimulate a normal rate.

The implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is recommended for high risk patients for developing very fast and irregular heart beats in the ventricular or lower chambers of the heart. If you are at risk for sudden cardiac arrest the ICD is recommended.

An ICD is an implanted unit that is similar to the pacemaker the electrode-tipped wires run from the battery powered ICD to the heart. This will run continuously and sends low or high energy shocks to rest the heart normal rhythm. It does not prevent this from happening just treat it if it occurs.

There are also surgical procedures.

The Maze procedure is an operation in which the doctor makes a several incisions in the atria or upper half of the heart to create pattern or maze of scar tissue, because it can conduct electricity and  affect stray electrical impulses that cause  arrhythmia.This procedure is effective but will require surgery, it usually fro people who don’t respond to other treatments. The surgeon may use radiofrequency energy or extreme cold (cryotherapy) to create the scars.

A corony bypass surgery may be used if a person has severe coronary artery disease and arrhythmia, to improve blood flow to the heart.