Treatment for arrhythmia may be recommended if the condition causes serious symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, or fainting. Dr. Patel, what can you tell us about arrhythmia treatments?
Well, Dr. Phillips, common arrhythmia treatments include medications, medical procedures, and surgery.
Certain medications are prescribed to slow down a heart that's beating too fast and are often used to treat atrial fibrillation, or AFib. These medications include beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin.
Other medications can change an abnormal heart rhythm to a normal, steady rhythm. These medications often have side effects, some of which can make an arrhythmia worse or cause a different kind of arrhythmia.
Blood-thinning medications may also be prescribed for specific arrhythmias to reduce the risk of blood clots forming.
Devices can be used to treat some arrhythmias, such as those that cause an abnormally slow heart rate or an unstable rhythm. A pacemaker is a small device that's implanted under the skin of the chest or abdomen. Pacemakers detect the heart's electrical activity and send electrical pulses or shocks to the heart when the heart rate becomes too slow. A defibrillator works in a similar way to restore a normal heartbeat when the heart is beating chaotically.
Another treatment for certain arrhythmias is a procedure called catheter ablation. During this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is threaded through a blood vessel to the heart, and a special machine sends energy through the catheter to destroy small areas of heart tissue where abnormal rhythms may start.
Surgery is not typically performed to treat arrythmia alone. However, in some cases, when surgery is already being done for another heart condition, the surgery may include treatment for an arrhythmia. For example, AFib may be treated with maze surgery, which involves small cuts or burns in the atria to prevent the spread of disorganized electrical signals. Arrhythmias caused by coronary artery disease may improve following a procedure to address blocked arteries.