A cardiac arrhythmia is an abnormal heart rhythm, where the heart beats too quickly, too slowly, or irregularly. Arrhythmia is caused by a problem in the heart's electrical system, the signals that stimulate the heart muscle to contract and relax. Some forms of arrhythmia occur in a healthy heart and are harmless, but arrhythmia may also indicate the presence of a more serious medical condition.
Types of arrhythmia treatment
There are a number of arrhythmia treatment options available to patients diagnosed with an abnormal heartbeat. Arrhythmia treatment may include:
Medication. Antiarrhythmic drugs are one of the most common forms of arrhythmia treatment for heart rates that are abnormally fast. These medications stabilize the heart rate and prevent cardiac complications by establishing a normal rhythm.
Non-surgical procedures. There are several non-surgical courses of arrhythmia treatment. In electrical cardioversion, an electrical current is sent through the chest wall to "reset" the heart and establish a normal rhythm in patients with persistent atrial fibrillation. Implantable devices like pacemakers or implantable cardioverter devices are also widely used. These devices provide automatic and continuous electrical therapy to prevent life-threatening arrhythmias. Catheter ablation is non-surgical arrhythmia treatment with a high success rate. This procedure identifies the heart tissue causing the electrical disturbance and "ablates" or destroys it with radio frequency waves or intense cold administered through catheters guided through the veins to the heart.
Surgical procedures. If medications and non-surgical procedures do not work, surgical procedures are used for arrhythmia treatment. Surgical ablation requires the chest to be opened and the heart exposed, and is usually performed at the same time as another cardiac procedure such as bypass surgery or valve repair and replacement.
State-of-the-art arrhythmia treatment at BWH
Patients at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) receive world-class arrhythmia treatment through the Cardiac Arrhythmia Service in the Heart & Vascular Center. This state-of-the-art facility is an internationally recognized leader in arrhythmia treatment, as well as treatment of other cardiac conditions such as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, cardiac amyloidosis, and congestive heart failure.
With one of the most experienced electrophysiology teams in the country, we provide personalized care and expertise, and perform more than 2,000 procedures annually using the latest medications, devices and techniques in arrhythmia treatment. Through the Center, patients have access to top specialists in the field of arrhythmia, and to multidisciplinary teams of nurses, technicians, fellows and research assistants, all dedicated to delivering the highest quality of care to our patients.