Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center

(801) 507-4701Map5121 S. Cottonwood StreetMurray, UT 84107

Overview of Arrhythmia

Irregular heartbeats indicate heart rhythm problems, also called arrhythmias or dysrhythmias. These problems happen when the heart's natural pacemaker, called the sinoatrial (SA) node, is no longer in control of the electrical impulses that cause your heart to pump. This disrupts the heart's normal rhythm and makes it work less efficiently. People may experience arrhythmias as palpitations, a "fluttering" or "racing" heart, or skipped heartbeats.

Causes: Irregular heartbeats can result from a number of different conditions. Some of these are lack of oxygen to the heart (often caused by atherosclerosis or narrowing of the coronary arteries), heart valve disease, or damage to the heart muscle.

Arrhythmia in Depth

There are several types of arrhythmias and heart rhythm disorders, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation: Atrial fibrillation is an abnormality of the electrical system in the upper chambers of the heart. Typically it causes the heart to beat fast and irregular.
  • Atrial flutter: Atrial flutter is a type of supraventricular tachycardia. The electrical problem is in the atria, and the heart beats very fast in a regular rhythm.
  • Heart block: Heart block is a disorder where the electricity does not correctly pass through the electrical pathways of the heart, resulting in an irregular heart beat.
  • Long QT syndrome: Long QT syndrome is a disorder of the electrical system where the heart muscle cells take extra time to recover after each heart beat.
  • Sick sinus syndrome: Sick sinus syndrome occurs when the normal pacemaker of the heart (the sinus node) does not work properly, resulting in irregular heart beats.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia: Supraventricular tachycardia describes a group of fast heart rhythms that can sometimes occur but are not due to stress or exercise.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest: Sudden cardiac arrest is the sudden, abrupt loss of heart function in a person who may or may not have been diagnosed with heart disease. The electrical rhythm that controls the lower chambers of the heart becomes chaotic, and the heart begins to quiver instead of pumping blood.
  • Ventricular tachycardia: Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid heart rhythm originating in the ventricles of the heart.

Diagnostic Tests for Arrhythmia

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)

    An EKG is a visual record of the spread of electrical impulses through the heart. These electrical impulses initiate the heartbeat.

  • Electrophysiology Study

    A catheterization procedure in which small electrical impulses are delivered to the heart to help evaluate heart rhythm abnormalities.

  • Cardiac Catheterization

    Cardiac catheterization is a procedure in which a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel into the arteries and chambers of the heart.

Treatments for Arrhythmia

Your doctor will discuss your treatment options with you. Possible treatments include:

  • Ablation

    Ablation is a technique typically used to treat abnormal heart rates and rhythms (arrhythmias). It involves ablating (destroying) a very small, targeted area of the heart muscle

  • Medications

    Heart rhythm medications, also called antiarrhythmics, control irregular heartbeats — and maintain a normal heart rate and rhythm.

  • Pacemakers & ICDs

    Pacemakers and ICDs are device implants that correct abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) and help your heart beat more efficiently.

  • MAZE Procedure

    MAZE is an open heart surgical procedure that treats atrial fibrillation by creating therapeutic scars on the heart muscle.

  • GALAXY Procedure

    The GALAXY procedure (also known as "mini-MAZE") is a minimally invasive operation designed to treat atrial fibrillation without the use of the heart-lung machine and with smaller, less painful incisions.

 

Services and Programs for Arrhythmia

Services and programs at Intermountain Heart Institute for patients with arrhythmia:

  • Heart Rhythm Program

    Our Heart Rhythm Program focuses on heart arrhythmia treatments including electrophysiology studies, ablation, and pacemaker and ICD implantation.

Research in Arrhythmia

The Heart Institute currently has one or more clinical trials that are enrolling patients with atrial fibrillation. Learn more about our clinical trials for arrhythmia.

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