03/02/2017

Symptoms and treatments for arrhythmias

Have you ever felt your heart beat really fast, felt a fluttering in your chest or thought your heart was skipping a beat? 

These may be signs of arrhythmia, also known as irregular or abnormal heartbeat. Arrhythmia affects anywhere between 2 and 6 million Americans. Recent studies suggest that up to 1 in 4 people over age 40 will develop some form of arrhythmias.

Most cases of arrhythmia are harmless, but some cases can be extremely dangerous and require treatment and management.

“There are many people that have an occasional skip in the heart rhythm. This is not abnormal,” says Dr. Michael Chisner, cardiologist and electrophysiologist with Cardiology Associates of Savannah and the Advanced Heart Rhythm Center at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “Some are asymptomatic and some are very bothered by it.”

Symptoms of arrhythmia can range from no symptoms to feeling your heart race or beat very chaotically, dizziness, shortness of breath, discomfort in the chest or head/neck area or fainting, says Chisner (pictured above).

There are several conditions which may cause an irregular heartbeat. These include extra beats (PACs and PVCs) and fast rhythms (tachycardia, atrial fibrillation) from irritable areas of electrical activity from the top (atria) or bottom (ventricles) of the heart or short circuits within the heart, which usually are more regular but feel strange because the heart is beating fast.

What should someone do if they feel they have an irregular heartbeat?

The first thing you should do is make an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can listen to your heart to determine if there is an irregular rhythm. An EKG also may be performed. Another test includes ambulatory cardiac monitoring, which is wearing a small portable EKG device for 24 hours or as long as a few weeks as an outpatient to link the patient’s symptom with a possible rhythm problem.

A diagnosis of an irregular or abnormal heartbeat isn’t all bad news. The good news is that technological advances continue to provide new opportunities to treat this condition.

Here are some procedures available at the Advanced Heart Rhythm Center that can help with arrhythmia.

Pacemakers

Implantable internal devices, called electronic cardiac pacemakers, are used to regular the heartbeat. These tiny devices are implanted under the skin below the collarbone with tiny electrodes leading to the heart. Pacemakers take over when the heart rate falls below a certain level, providing a reasonable simulation of normal heart rhythm.

Radiofrequency Ablation

Some types of serious cardiac arrhythmias can be repaired using relatively simple procedures such as ablation. By mapping the electrical activity of the heart, it is possible to locate abnormal tissue. Radiofrequency energy delivered to the area of the abnormal heart rhythm will interrupt the electrical circuit in the heart, thus eliminating the problem.

Cryoablation

Cryoablation is a procedure performed to restore normal heart rhythm by disabling heart cells that create an irregular heartbeat. During this minimally invasive procedure, a think flexible tube called a balloon catheter is used to locate and freeze the heart tissue that triggers an irregular heartbeat.

The Watchman

The Watchman is a device that closes off the left atrial appendage preventing the formation of blood clots and drastically reducing the risk of stroke. The Watchman is recommended for patients with Atrial Fibrillation who cannot safely take blood thinners long term.

 

  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000