Heart Rhythm Disorders (cont.)
Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM
Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.
Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
In this Article
- How does the heart work?
- Premature atrial contractions (PACs) and premature ventricular contractions (PVCs)
- Sinus tachycardia
- Sinus bradycardia
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Ventricular fibrillation
- Ventricular flutter
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
- Wolf-Parkinson-White Syndrome
- Atrial fibrillation
- Atrial Flutter
- Heart blocks
- When should I seek medical care?
- How are heart rhythm disorders diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for heart rhythm disorders?
- Can heart rhythm disorders be prevented?
- Find a local Cardiologist in your town
Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation except that instead of having chaotic electrical firing from all points in the atrium, one point has become irritated and can fire 300 times per minute or more. The issues that exist for atrial fibrillation apply to atrial flutter. Atrial flutter may degenerate into atrial fibrillation.
Aside from medications that are meant to slow the heart for treatment of a variety of medical problems, bradycardia (brady=slow + cardia=heart) is usually due to heart block and the aging of the electrical wiring of the heart. This is no different than the aging of your home's electrical system, but instead of being able to rewire the heart; these conditions may need to be treated with an implantable pacemaker.
Heart blocks involving the ventricle may be asymptomatic and of little consequence except to point to underlying heart or lung disease. They are diagnosed by EKG.
Heart blocks involving the atrium can be classified as first, second, and third degree.
- First degree heart block is common and of little significance.
There is a slight delay in getting the electrical signal from the SA node to the
AV node, but the heart functions normally.
- There are two types of second degree
heart block (Mobitz I and Mobitz II) but only the Mobitz II type can be a
precursor to a life threatening rhythm problem.
- Third degree heart block describes the complete loss of connection between the electrical activity of the atrium and the ventricle. Second and third degree heart blocks are diagnosed by analyzing heart rhythm strips and EKGs.
Heart blocks are symptomatic because the heart beats so slowly that cardiac output is decreased. The symptoms may include lightheadedness or passing out (syncope), weakness, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Diagnosis and treatment of life-threatening heart block happen at the same time. Often a temporary pacemaker may be placed to stabilize the patient, and then decisions are made as to what type of permanent solution is appropriate.
Viewers share their comments
- Submit »
Get the latest treatment options.