Heart Rhythm Management
Irregular Heartbeat: Normal or Treatable?
Atrial fibrillation is a heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat irregularly and often at such a high rate that the heart can’t pump blood effectively. This can cause blood to pool in the chambers and form clots – which may result in a stroke.
Some people may have AFib and will not notice any symptoms. Others may experience dizziness, faintness, shortness of breath or chest pain.
Several factors can increase your risk for atrial fibrillation, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Heart disease
- Chronic lung disease, Emphysema or Asthma
- Sleep apnea
If you have any concerns about your heart rhythm or symptoms, be sure to check with your family doctor or a cardiologist.
If your doctor is concerned about heart rhythm or heart rate abnormalities, Holter monitoring may be ordered. The Holter monitor is worn during daily activities to record your heartbeat and help your physician identify arrhythmias.
Electrophysiology services diagnose areas of the heart's electrical system that may be causing abnormal heart rhythms. Specially trained cardiologists treat disorders ranging from minor arrhythmias to severe, life-threatening disorders.
Ablation therapy is used to fix issues related to the heart's rhythm by using a catheter to correct structural problems. Procedures can treat symptoms such as chest pain and fainting and can last up to four hours.
Diagnosing atrial fibrillation
Your physician or cardiologist may order an electrocardiogram or EKG to track your heart rhythm or an electrophysiology study to map the electrical system of the heart and identify areas that may not be working properly.
What are my treatment options?
At Franciscan Health, our cardiologists create a personalized treatment plan based on your specific causes and factors and monitor how you respond.
- Prescribed medications, which encompasses beta blockers and anticoagulants (blood thinners)
- Electrical cardioversion uses electrical shock to get the heart back into a normal rhythm. The patient is sedated during the procedure.
- An implantable pacemaker, placed surgically under the skin monitors heart rates and sends electrical impulses to stimulate the heart if it slows too much.
- Catheter ablation places a specially designed catheter, which is guided through the blood vessels toward the heart with an X-ray. When in place the catheter directs heat or energy on the tissue responsible for creating the irregular heartbeat. The treated tissue ceases to conduct the problematic electrical activity, and the surrounding healthy heart tissue is untouched.
- Surgical options include a procedure called Maze or mini-Maze in which the surgeon will cut across the heart tissue responsible for creating the abnormal heart rhythm or use energy wave rhythm to create scars across the tissue to stop it from emitting electrical impulses causing the arrhythmia.