Mercy Heart & Vascular Services
Conditions - Arrhythmia
Arrhythmia (also called “dysrhythmia”) refers to an irregular heartbeat. There are two general categories of arrhythmia. Tachycardia is when your heart beats too quickly and bradycardia is a condition where your heart beats too slowly. Our Mercy Heart and Vascular Center cardiologists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all of the following forms of arrhythmia:
- Accessory pathway tachycardias – a faster than normal heart rate caused by faster electrical impulse travel to the heart via an additional connection between the heart’s ventricles and atria.
- Atrial flutter – a common precursor to atrial fibrillation where the heart has a rapid but organized heartbeat.
- Atrial fibrillation – a common irregular heartbeat where the heart’s upper chambers (atria) contract abnormally.
- AV nodal reentrant tachycardia – a faster than normal heart rate created by multiple pathways in the heart’s AV node. Symptoms of this condition can include heart palpitations and heart failure.
- Bradyarrhythmias – a slower than normal heartbeat which can be caused by heart disease.
- Heart block – an irregular, slower than normal heartbeat caused by delayed or blocked electrical impulses traveling across the heart.
- Long QT Syndrome – a genetic condition that affects the heart’s ability to contract and recover in a timely manner. Left undiagnosed and untreated it can cause sudden death.
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) – a faster than normal heart rate that typically is not long-lasting.
- Premature atrial contractions – harmless, “extra” heartbeats that do not signal heart disease or require medical treatment.
- Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) – the most common arrhythmia – a “skipped” heartbeat - that is not necessarily related to heart disease and is usually harmless. PVCs can be triggered by stress, too much caffeine, too much exercise, nicotine, electrolyte imbalance.
- Sinus node dysfunction – a slower than normal heartbeat related to an abnormal sinus node which can be treated with pacemaker.
- Ventricular fibrillation – a condition where the heart muscle is unable to regularly pump blood to the body due to erratic electric firing of impulses across the heart’s ventricles. This condition requires immediate medical attention including defibrillation (to “shock” the heart’s electrical activity back to normal) and CPR.
- Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) – a faster than normal heart rhythm that prevents the heart from adequately filling with blood.
While most arrhythmias are harmless it’s still important to let your doctor know because it could signal an underlying problem that is preventing your heart from circulating an adequate supply of oxygenated blood throughout your body. There are non-cardiac related causes for arrhythmia. For example you can develop certain types of arrhythmias if you are:
- taking certain prescription medications
- using drugs including cocaine, alcohol, or tobacco
Your Mercy Heart and Vascular Center cardiologist will review your family history to determine a possible hereditary cause and then use a variety of diagnostic tools and tests to determine what type of arrhythmia you may have so that you can receive proper treatment.