Treating Abnormal Heart Rhythms
Atrial fibrillation, the most common kind of arrhythmia, impacts as many at 6 million Americans. People over 40 have a 25% chance of developing AFib in their lifetime, and AFib raises a person's risk for stroke by 500%.
Even though there is no cure for this abnormal rhythm it can be very effectively managed by the rhythm specialists, minimizing the adverse impact on your health.
Some people with AFib don’t have symptoms or only experience them once in a while. That means AFib can fly under the radar for several years, increasing your risk of stroke. But the faster your AFib is detected, the greater the chance it can be effectively managed, before it becomes a constant condition.
An electrophysiology study (EP study) can help determine if you have a heart rhythm disorder and are at risk for cardiac arrest, stroke, or cardiovascular disease. Based on an EP study our specialists can provide appropriate recommendations for your abnormal heart rhythm. The recommendations may include getting a pacemaker or defibrillator, or an ablation procedure for the arrhythmia.
Treatment will vary depending on your symptoms, age, and other medical conditions. Your electrophysiology team might recommend medication to manage your heart rhythm disorder or an interventional procedure.
Medications for Irregular Heart Rhythms
Medications can help manage your condition, lowering your risk for stroke or congestive heart failure. Some of the more commonly prescribed medications include:
- Antiarrhythmics treat abnormal heart beats
- Beta blockers slow and may suppress abnormal heart beats
- Blood thinners may be prescribed to patients with AFib or atrial flutter to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke
- Calcium channel blockers slow and may suppress abnormal heart beats
Medication may also be prescribed to treat an underlying medical condition, such as heart disease or a thyroid disorder, that may be causing your arrhythmia.
Minimally Invasive Procedures for Cardiac Arrhythmias
Based on your medication condition, your electrophysiologist may recommend an interventional procedure such as catheter ablation.
Catheter ablation helps manage AFib or irregular heart rhythm by silencing small areas of heart tissue responsible for irregular electrical impulses. We use a catheter to deliver energy to a precise area of your heart.
During ablation, catheters are threaded through blood vessels to your heart and then used to deliver energy to the abnormal heart tissue. The procedure can take several hours. Depending on your condition, you may be able to go home the same day as your procedure or the day after. Recovery time is generally short with most patients returning to normal activities in a few days.
Other treatment options include:
- Cardioversion: During this procedure, we deliver a jolt of electricity to your heart in order to shock it back into regular rhythm.
- Pacemakers: A pacemaker is implanted in your chest to prompt the heart to beat at a normal rate. A pacemaker may be recommended when the electrical wiring of your heart has been damaged/broken down, which can lead to slow heart rate or recurrent pauses for your heart. These slow heart rate or recurrent pauses can cause dizziness, tiredness, or even fainting.
- Implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD): Similar to a pacemaker, this device is implanted in your chest. It can detect potentially fatal heart rhythms (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation) and delivers a short electrical shock to restore your heart to a normal rhythm and minimize the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Aurora BayCare offers low-dose fluoroscopy for cardiac ablation using ultrasound and non-radiation 3D mapping systems. This new approach provides high resolution imaging with low radiation exposure, lowering X-ray doses by more than 75%, compared to traditional low-dose methods. In addition, we are using ultrasound and non-radiation 3D mapping systems to significantly decrease radiation exposure.
We are regularly monitoring our quality standards to ensure Aurora BayCare maintains the highest performance and success rates. Aurora BayCare beats national benchmarks for these patient outcomes:
- High success rate: After ablation, most patients were in normal rhythm at their most recent follow-up visit.
- Reduced need for medication: More patients decreased their use of antiarrhythmic drugs after ablation.
- Lower complications: The complication rate for patients undergoing ablation at Aurora BayCare is lower than national benchmarks.
- Lower readmissions: Within one month of ablation, fewer of our patients require readmission to the hospital, when compared to national numbers.
- Lower need for repeat procedures: Our post-ablation rate for repeat procedures is lower than national standards. Avoiding repeat procedures means less risk, less pain, and lower costs.
Some people have relatively harmless arrhythmias that do not affect their health. However, arrhythmias can be unpredictable. Talk to a specialist if you have symptoms, a family history of irregular heartbeats, or heart disease.
The electrophysiologists at Aurora BayCare are specialists who focus on the electrical rhythms of your heart. Talk to us for a wider range of treatment options, access to the latest clinical research, and better symptom relief.