There are many common arrhythmia treatments, including medicines, devices, procedures, and surgery.
We may recommend one of these treatments for a variety of reasons:
- If your arrhythmia causes you to have serious symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, or fainting
- If your arrhythmia warrants preventive action
- If your arrhythmia increases your risk for additional problems like heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac arrest
Fortunately, there are more treatments for arrhythmia available now than at any time before in history.
Some types of arrhythmias can be treated with medicines, which can:
- Slow or prevent a rapid heartbeat – Examples are beta blockers (such as metoprolol and atenolol), calcium channel blockers (such as diltiazem and verapamil), and digoxin (digitalis)
- Steady an abnormal heart rhythm (anti-arrhythmics) – Examples are amiodarone, sotalol, flecainide, propafenone, dofetilide, ibutilide, quinidine, procainamide, and disopyramide. All medicines have side effects. Ironically, some side effects of these medicines can make an arrhythmia worse or even cause a different kind of arrhythmia. We monitor each patient’s reaction to medicine carefully
- Reduce the risk of blood clots forming – The oldest drug used for this purpose is the vitamin K antagonist warfarin (Coumadin®), but it has an extremely complex dosing regimen. Direct Thrombin Inhibitors such as dabigatran, and Xa Factor Inhibitors such as rivaroxiban (Xyrelto®), apixaban (Eliquis®), and edoxaban (Savaysa®) are newer examples of blood-thinning medicines. If you have A-fib or another specific type of arrhythmia, we may recommend treatment with blood-thinning medicines
- Control an underlying medical condition – If we suspect that your arrhythmia is being caused by an underlying condition such as cardiovascular or thyroid disease, we will prescribe medicine to control it
- Stimulate a slow heartrate – Some medications, especially those used to control high blood pressure, can lead to a slow heartrate. In these cases, we’ll look at the medications you’re taking and adjust them accordingly
If we decide that medications won’t work for your situation, the next step is a medical procedure, and all of our physicians have extensive experience with each one.
Some that we may recommend, based on your specific diagnosis, include:
- Cardioversion – Some arrhythmias are treated with a jolt of electricity to the heart. This is to reset the heart to normal rhythm.
- Pacemaker – A small device that's placed under the skin of your chest or actually in the heart to help control abnormal heart rhythms. Pacemakers have sensors that monitors the heart's electrical activity, and when the device senses an abnormally slow heart rate, it sends electrical impulses to prompt the heart to beat more quickly. Pacemakers do not correct fast heart rates; those are treated with medication.
- Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD) – If you’re at risk for ventricular tachyarrhythmias (which can be life-threatening), we’ll implant a device in your chest called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD continuously monitors the heartbeat, and if it senses a dangerous ventricular arrhythmia, it provides an electric shock to the heart to terminate the arrhythmia and restore a normal heartbeat.
- Catheter Ablation – We use this procedure to treat arrhythmias if medicines don't work or in conjunction with medicines. We place flexible tubes (catheters) into blood vessels in your groin (upper thigh), and then guide the catheters into your heart. We then use advanced techniques to map the heart and discover the origin of the arrhythmia. Finally, we apply energy through the tubes to your heart to destroy small areas of heart tissue where abnormal heart rhythms may start. Usually, we perform catheter ablation in a hospital as part of an electrophysiology study.
Whatever your history, exam, and tests reveal as the most appropriate treatment for your arrhythmia, you can be secure in the knowledge that you will benefit from our combination of expertise and extra compassion.