Heart Rhythm Disorders

There are multiple electrophysiology procedures available for heart rhythm complications. Learn how heart rhythm disorders, such as atrial fibrillation, brachycardia (slow heart rhythms) and tachycardia (fast heart rhythms) are diagnosed and treated.

General Information

Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy/Dysplasia (ARVC/D) is an inherited condition that causes abnormal heart rhythms. ARVC/D may account for up to 20 percent of cases of sudden death among young people.

Atrial Fibrillation is the most common, sustained cardiac rhythm disorder. The incidence and prevalence of atrial fibrillation increases with age. Upward of 3 million people have atrial fibrillation. Dr. Rupa Bala says, "It takes a village to achieve the best care possible."

Premature ventricular complexes, or PVCs, are a common clinical problem. While patients may be asymptomatic, typically these PVCs cause sensations of skipping, heart pounding, and possibly chest pain, shortness of breath or dizziness.

It’s a common scenario in a cardiology clinic when the cardiologist informs the patient they have atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating. Shock and fear take over, especially once the cardiologist says something about “increased risk of stroke.” Mathew Hutchinson, MD, discusses how AFib and stroke risks.

Understanding your stroke risk, how to control symptoms and prevention factors are three topics you should discuss with your doctor to help you live healthily with atrial fibrillation.

New choices for preventing stroke for patients with atrial fibrillation.

Some risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation are similar to those for cardiovascular disease, cancer and stroke.

Sometimes an irregular heart beat can be improved by adjusting medications. This may be the situation when the slow heart beat is due to problems with the sinus node (“sick sinus syndrome”). However, often the slow heart beat cannot be improved by medication adjustments, and then a pacemaker is needed. Pacemakers are also needed when there is electrical block of the signals, particularly in “complete heart block.”

Atrial fibrillation is a common heart rhythm problem, particularly in people over the age of 70. In some cases, medications may be sufficient to control symptoms. If medications are insufficient, an ablation may be recommended.

Using special skin patch electrodes, applied to the chest, an electroshock is delivered to the heart to stop an abnormal heart rhythm (typically atrial fibrillation) and establish a normal heart rhythm.

Pacing leads (1,2 or 3) are positioned through the collarbone vein into the heart chambers and affixed to the heart muscle. These leads are then connected to the pacemaker or ICD generator, which is placed under the skin in the front chest region just below the collarbone.

MRI scans can now be performed safely on selected Pacemaker and ICD patients.

Catheters are placed into groin veins (and sometimes artery) and advanced into the heart to analyze the heart’s electrical system, induce the abnormal heart rhythm, identify the site responsible for the abnormal heart rhythm and cauterize (ablate) this site thus eliminating the abnormal heart rhythm.

Additional Links

Evaluates ischemic stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation

More Information

Cardiologists who specialize in electrophysiology diagnosis and treat disorders associated with the heart's electrical systems are called electrophysiologists. These disorders include atrial fibrillation, bradycardia (slow heart rhythm) and tachycardia (fast heart rhythm).