Arrhythmia Treatment

When awareness of heart beats (palpitations) can be felt, it may be quite unsettling. If they are found to be harmless, the patient may be reassured and advised to avoid the circumstances that bring about the condition. Arrhythmia can be due to certain drugs a person is taking. In such cases, changing the medication or its dosage may bring relief. Those with arrhythmia are often advised to avoid stimulants like alcohol, caffeine and tobacco. Also, if palpitations are felt only during exercise, such exertions may be avoided.

Arrhythmia Treatment With Drugs

A group of drugs that help suppress arrhythmia are called antiarrhythmic drugs. They are usually given for tachyarrythmia or fast heart rate that causes severe discomfort. Since, arrhythmias can be of various types, and neither a particular drug can treat all types of arrhythmia nor a particular type of arrhythmia can be treated with a specific drug, doctors have to try several drugs and combinations to arrive at suitable medication. In addition to having side effects, paradoxically, antiarrhythmic drugs can have a proarrythmic effect in some cases, where, they can actually cause arrhythmias or worsen them.

Arrhythmia Treatment With Pacemakers

When the natural pacemaker of the heart is not working properly, artificial pacemakers can take over, to preempt any potentially fatal situations. An artificial pacemaker is so small that it can be comfortably embedded in the chest, with tiny wires connecting it to the heart. With the advancement in technology; better electrical circuitry and longer lasting batteries have ensured ten to fifteen years of life for these implants. Techniques have been devised to work around the problem of interference from other commonly encountered electronic devices such as mobile phones and microwave ovens, though it is not entirely fool-proof. High energy fields of MRI machine and diathermy machine (used in physiotherapy to apply heat to the muscles) often interfere with artificial pacemakers.

Pacemakers are mainly used to treat bradyarrhythmias or slow heart rate and they can be life savers. Whenever the heartbeat slows down to a dangerously low rate, they can deliver pulses of electric current directly into the heart, reviving it. Occasionally, pacemakers are also used to suppress tachyarrhythmia

Restoring Normal Rhythm with Electrical DC Shock

An electrical shock delivered into the heart, can stop tachyarrhythmia and normalize the heart rhythm. This is called cardioversion and it is often used to reverse arrhythmias originating in the atria or in the ventricles. The defibrillator machine has to be operated by specially trained professionals such as doctors or emergency care providers. A compact device called implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) can be used for continuous monitoring of the heart rhythm.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

is a compact electronic device that can be implanted under the skin by a minimally invasive surgery and be connected to the heart via veins. These life-saving devices are for people at risk of death from arrhythmia. When ICDs that monitor the heart all the time; encounter a fast heart rhythm, they automatically apply a shock to reverse it and restore normal rhythm. The shock applied may be experienced as a kick in the chest. ICDs do the work of pacemakers too, reviving a sluggish heart. Interference by high energy fields of an MRI machine or a diathermy machine is still a problem with these devices; but they are safe from interference with most of the commonly used electronic devices such as cell phones. Since these devices only help correct an abnormal heart rhythm but not prevent the occurrence of arrhythmias, drugs are often prescribed to treat the condition.

Automated external defibrillator (AED) is a new, easy to use device that can be operated by those trained in providing first aid. It can detect arrhythmia and automatically deliver an electric shock if necessary. If placed accessibly in public places like shopping malls, it has the potential to be a life saver on a large scale.

Destroying Abnormal Tissue

Surgical removal of a small area of the heart’s electrical system that is faulty can help control arrhythmia in certain cases. Radiofrequency ablation is a minimally invasive procedure for selective destruction of the faulty tissue. A catheter fitted with electrodes (ablator) is inserted into the heart and high frequency electric current is applied to destroy the ear marked area. This highly successful procedure, which takes only two to four hours to complete and just one or two days of hospitalization, is preferred over an open-heart surgery with its inherent risks.

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Yasser Elnahas

MD, PHD, Professor Of CardioVascular Surgery
Dr. Yasser Elnahas, Is an associate Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery. Dr. Elnahas was trained as a fellow At Texas Heart Institute And Mayo Clinic Foundation.Dr. Elnahas is dedicated to educating the general public about different disease conditions and simplifying the medical knowledge in an easy to understand terminology.

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