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Not all arrhythmias require treatment, but patients need to manage arrhythmias that cause significant symptoms, increase risk for a more serious condition or impair the heart's efficiency and circulation. Treatment depends on the type and degree of the arrhythmia and may include:
- Lifestyle measures. Because many arrhythmias arise from underlying heart disease, doctors may recommend more exercise, an improved diet, better stress management, not smoking and limiting caffeine and alcohol as ways to reduce episodes.
- Drugs. Sodium channel blockers, beta-blockers, potassium channel blockers, calcium channel blockers and digitalis may slow or suppress tachycardia. However, these drugs may produce unwanted side effects, cause an arrhythmia to occur more frequently or produce a new arrhythmia.
- Implantable devices. Surgery to implant an artificial pacemaker is a common treatment for bradycardia. This device, implanted under the skin and attached to the heart, sends an electrical impulse whenever the heart rhythm slows or becomes erratic. Another device, the implantable cardioverter defibrillator, can be placed in the chest to correct an abnormally fast heartbeat.
- Cardioversion. This treatment uses drugs or an electrical shock to reset the heart to its regular rhythm.
- Catheter ablation. Catheters are threaded through blood vessels to the heart and deliver radiofrequency energy to carefully destroy (ablate) the abnormal portions of the heart causing the arrhythmia. This method is highly successful in treating tachycardia.
- Open-heart surgery. Cardiologists use open-heart surgery to regulate electrical impulses usually only after patients haven't responded to other treatments. Patients suffering severe coronary artery disease in addition to ventricular tachycardia may require coronary bypass to improve blood supply to the heart.
Learn more about treatment options and our team of cardiac electrophysiologists.