Arrhythmia or Disorders of Heart Rhythm

Arrhythmias or disorders of heart rhythm are a group of diseases characterized by abnormality of heart beat. Our heart is expected to beat in a certain way. In an adult individual the heart normally beats 60 t0 100 times per minute, in a regular manner (that means a nearly constant interval between two beats ). There are some normal variations, like in children the heart beat is faster, in some healthy persons and trained athelets the heart beat can be slower, during sleep the heart beat is normally slower.

Definition of Arrhythmia:

Arrhythmia is defined as any deviation from this normal pattern of heart beat.

What are the types of Arrhythmia?

Heart rhythm disorders are basically of two types. When the Heart rate is abnormally high it is called TACHYCARDIA. When the heart rate is abnormally slow it is called BRADYCARDIA. There can be irregular heart beats even if the heart rate is between 60-100, those cases are also Arrhythmic.

What is the relation of arrhythmias to other heart diseases?

Arrhythmias can be divided into two types based on heart diseases

  1. Arrhythmias occurring in persons having no underlying structural heart disease are called- IDIOPATHIC ARRHYTHIMAS
  2. Arrhythmia also arise in persons who have underlying structural heart diseases.

What are the symptoms of Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias due to slow heart rate (Bradycardia) commonly cause

  1. Lethargy
  2. Fatigue
  3. Palpitation
  4. Light headedness
  5. Syncope (Transient loss of consciousness followed by full recovery)
  6. Sudden death

Arrhythmias due to fast heart rate (Tachycardia) commonly produce symptoms of

  1. Palpitation
  2. Faintness and light headedness
  3. Syncope (Transient loss of consciousness followed by full recovery)
  4. Sudden death
  5. Reduced pumping capacity of heart and related symptoms
  6. Some arrhythmias like atrial fibrillation can produce abnormal clotting of blood inside heart which can migrate to brain to cause stroke and paralysis.

How serious are Arrhythmias?

Some arrhythmias are benign and non life threatening, but they cause troublesome symptoms of palpitation and skipped beats.

Some arrhythmias are life threatening and can cause even sudden death. It all depends on the origin and type of arrhythmias and any other underlying heart disease.

How to diagnose arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias are commonly diagnosed by

  • ECG
  • Holter monitoring
  • Sometimes long term monitoring like – event recorders, loop recorders etc.
  • In some case Cardiac Electrophysiological study is required to diagnose a rhythm disorder.

What are the treatments available?

  1. Some transient arrhythmias terminate on their own and don’t need any specific therapy
  2. Underlying cause needs to be treated like- drugs, electrolyte disturbances, etc
  3. Medicines are usually the first line treatment
  4. Catheter Ablation: It is a procedure done in cardiac cathlab where an arrhythmia is ablated commonly by application of radiofrequency energy inside the heart. It is a safe procedure with prospect for complete cure of the arrhythmia.