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Understanding cardiac arrhythmias: Part II

Understanding cardiac arrhythmias: Part II

There are four main types of cardiac arrhythmia: premature beats, supraventricular arrhythmias, ventricular arrhythmias and bradyarrhythmias. Today on our blog, we look at ventricular arrhythmias and bradyarrhythmias.

The heart consists of four chambers. The upper chambers are called the atria; the lower chambers, the ventricles, are responsible for pushing oxygenated blood out to the body. Arrhythmias that begin in the lower chambers are very dangerous and usually require immediate care.

Ventricular tachycardia is a fast, regular beating of the ventricles that may last for just a few seconds or for much longer. A few beats of ventricular tachycardia usually isn’t cause for immediate concern, but as with all heart problems, should be checked out immediately. (Symptoms include chest pain, fast heart rate, palpitations, lightheadedness, fainting and shortness of breath.) Ventricular tachycardia can turn into a more serious arrhythmia, such as ventricular fibrillation, or v-fib.

V-fib occurs when disorganized electrical signals cause the ventricles to quiver instead of contract normally, starving the brain and body of oxygen. Death can occur within a few minutes. An electrical shock must be administered immediately. Only about 5 percent of patients who experience an episode of v-fib outside the hospital setting survive. V-fib can occur during or after a heart attack or in an individual who has another heart condition.

When the heart beats slower than normal, this is called a bradyarrhythmia or bradycardia. If the heart rate is too low, not enough blood reaches the brain. In adults, a heart rate of 60 beats per minute or less is considered bradycardia. Some people have heart rates that are naturally lower than 60 beats per minute especially those who are in top physical condition.

Bradycardia can be caused by heart attacks, aging, underactive thyroid, a chemical imbalance in the bloodstream, medications such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, digoxin and some anti arrhythmia medications.

King’s Daughters electrophysiologists are experts in treating all types of cardiac arrhythmias, including medical management, pacemaker and ICD placement, EP studies, and interventional procedures. Our heart rhythm specialists see patients in Ashland, Grayson, Louisa and Prestonsburg, Ky., and Portsmouth, Ohio. Appointments are available within 48 hours. For more information, please call (606) 324-4745.

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