Arrhythmia

There are lots of moments that make your heart race—parasailing, making that great shot or saying yes to the love of your life. Another thing that can make your heart race is a heart rhythm disorder. Also called arrhythmias, heart rhythm disorders occur when the heart beats too fast, too slow or irregularly. The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, also called AFib. Left untreated, arrythmias are a leading cause of stroke, and can lead to serious injury or death.

At BayCare, our heart rhythm specialists can diagnose and treat these disorders. From extensive treatment options to active involvement in clinical research trials, BayCare’s heart rhythm disorder specialists have the advanced training and experience to provide high-quality heart care
throughout West Central Florida.

What is an Arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is a disorder of the heart rhythm, beating too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly. The heart muscles pumping action of contraction and relaxation is regulated by a unique system called the heart’s electrical system.  Arrhythmias are caused when the electrical system of the heart isn't working properly. The most common type of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation also known as AFib, where the heart rhythm is too fast, too slow or skips a beat.  Left untreated, AFib can lead to serious illness and is the leading cause of stroke.

Some common causes of abnormal heartbeats are:

  • Abnormal levels of potassium or other substances
  • Heart attack, or a damaged heart muscle from a past heart attack
  • Heart disease that is present at birth (congenital)
  • Heart failure, enlarged heart or overactive thyroid gland

In some cases, arrhythmias may also be caused by some substances or drugs.

Suspect you or someone you love has a heart rhythm disorder? For a referral to a cardiac specialist, call us at (855) 233-0888 for a physician referral or fill out the form to request a referral.

What are the different types of arrhythmias? 

  • Atrial Fibrillation
    Also known as AFib, it’s the most common arrhythmia. This happens when the heart rhythm is too fast, too slow or skips a beat.  Left untreated, AFib can lead to serious illness such as heart failure and is the leading cause of stroke.
  • Atrial Flutter 
    Similar to AFib, this type of arrhythmia usually causes a fast heart rate. This happens when the upper chambers (atria) beats extremely fast, which then causes the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart to beat inefficiently. Many people that have an atrial flutter develop AFib over time. 
  • Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
    Also known as paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT), this arrhythmia starts in the upper chamber (atria) of the heart.  This abnormally fast heart rhythm can be abrupt and may last for a few seconds to a few hours before your heart returns to a normal rhythm.
  • Ventricular Arrhythmias
    This happens when there are abnormal heartbeats in lower chambers of the heart, called ventricles. 
  • Ventricular Tachycardia
    This is caused by abnormal electrical signals that begin in the lower chambers (ventricles) of the heart.  This then makes the heartbeat too fast which effects the way your heart pumps causing poor blood flow to the rest of your body. VT can eventually lead to Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib).
  • Ventricular Fibrillation (V-fib)
    A dangerous and life-threatening type of arrhythmia that starts in your ventricles. This happens when the electrical signals that tell your heart muscle to pump causes your ventricles to fibrillate instead, which in return causes inefficient blood flow to your body.  
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)
    This happens when there is an extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart muscles, which can lead to an abnormally fast heart rhythm. This arrhythmia is usually present at birth but doesn’t present to be a problem until the person is older in age. 

What are the symptoms of an arrhythmia?

Symptoms of an arrhythmia include a heartbeat that may be too slow (bradycardia), too quick (tachycardia), regular, uneven, or skipping beats. An arrhythmia may be present all of the time or it may come and go.  You may or may not feel symptoms when the arrhythmia is present or you may only notice symptoms when you are more active.  Symptoms can be very mild, or they may be severe or even life-threatening. Common symptoms that may occur when the arrhythmia is present include:

  • Chest pain
  • Paleness
  • Sweating
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations
  • Fainting, light-headedness, or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important that you talk to a primary care physician. If you do not have one, find a primary care doctor now.

Treatment Options

Medications called anti-arrhythmic drugs may be used to keep your heart rate from becoming too fast or too slow and prevent an arrhythmia from happening again. Some of these medicines can have side effects. Take them as prescribed by your health care provider. Do not stop taking the medicine or change the dose without first talking to your health care provider.

Suspect you or someone you love has a heart rhythm disorder? For a referral to a cardiologist or a heart rhythm disorder specialist (electrophysiologist), call us at (855) 233-0888 for a physician referral or fill out the form to request a referral.

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Request a Physician Referral

  • Cardiac Ablation
    Cardiac Ablation uses radiofrequency (heat) or cyroablation (cold) to disrupt the abnormal electrical signals in the heart that are making it beat out of normal rhythm.
  • Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator (ICD)
    An ICD is a device implanted near the heart for those at high risk of sudden cardiac from a heart rhythm disorder. If the heart goes into an abnormal rhythm, an ICD sends an electric shock to the heart to stop the abnormal rhythm.
  • Pacemaker
    A Pacemaker, (including conventional single chamber device as well as the Medtronic Micra Transcatheter Pacing System), is a device that senses when your heart is beating irregularly, too slowly, or too fast. It sends a signal to your heart that makes your heart beat at the correct pace.
     
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
    Radiofrequency ablation, also known as a catheter ablation, is a process that uses heat to disrupt the abnormal electrical signals causing an abnormal heart beat.
  • Cryoablation
    Cryoablation is a process that uses extreme cold to disrupt the abnormal electrical signals causing an abnormal heart beat.
  • Hybrid Convergent Ablation
    Minimally-invasive hyrbid convergent ablation is a procedure that treats both the inside and outside of the heart to address AFib. In this procedure, our cardiovascular surgeon and  electrophysiologist work together. Using a small incision and a video scope, our cardiovascular surgeon treats the abnormal tissue on the outside of the heart, while our electrophysiologist treats the abnormal tissue on the inside the heart. This approach is considered for patients where medical therapy is not effective in controlling AFib, medication therapy isn't tolerated well, or if other catheter ablation fails.

If you have been taking medication for an arrhythmia and are considering some of these alternative options, talk to your physician. The following BayCare hospitals offer arrhythmia treatments: