Himanshu H. Shukla, M.D., is board certified in internal medicine and cardiovascular disease. He practices medicine at Banner Desert Medical Center.
Question: What is a Heart Arrhythmia?
Answer: A heart arrhythmia is a disturbance of the heart's electrical system. Arrhythmias can range from a benign finding to a potential life-threatening problem. This is why it is important to diagnose and treat these conditions.
Question: What are the symptoms of heart arrhythmias?
Answer: Unfortunately, there is no one symptom. Some common symptoms include palpitations, fatigue, fast heart rates, slow heart rates, shortness of breath, fainting and dizziness. Occasionally, patients can have heart rhythm disorders without any symptoms. In addition, there are some conditions, such as heart attacks or heart failure, that may predispose you to a heart arrhythmia and this, too, needs to be treated.
Question: Are heart arrhythmias treatable?
Answer: Fortunately, heart rhythm disorders are potentially curable. In fact, the majority of heart arrhythmias can be treated with very simple procedures. The underlying treatment depends on the diagnosis.
Question: What are dangerous heart rhythm disorders?
Answer: Sudden cardiac death is the most common dangerous heart arrhythmia. It is actually known as ventricular tachycardia. This condition is a very common cause of death, accounting for 450,000 annual deaths—more than breast cancer, prostate cancer, and AIDS combined. There are some high-risk conditions that alert us to patients who are at high risk for these disorders. Some examples include previous heart attack, bypass surgery and heart failure.
Question: Is sudden cardiac death preventable?
Answer: Yes it is. With minor surgery, patients at high risk for this dangerous arrhythmia can undergo implantation with a defibrillator. This device can actually save a life.
Question: What other heart rhythm disorders are dangerous?
Answer: Atrial fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. Patient with this disorder has a higher than usual rate of heart failure, stroke, and the need for pacemakers.
Question: What can be done with atrial fibrillation?
Answer: Atrial fibrillation can be treated in a variety of ways. If caught early enough, this arrhythmia can be treated with catheter based procedures, similar to a heart catheterization, meant to target and cure this arrhythmia, thereby keeping the normal rhythm and hopefully reducing the risk of strokes and heart failure.