Methods and Devices Used in the Treatment of Cardiac Arrhythmia
Treatment of cardiac arrhythmia occurs after a diagnosis is made with an external heart monitor (holter), implantable monitors or with an invasive catheter electrophysiology study. Such studies may also incorporate immediate treatment of cardiac arrhythmia conditions based on the electrophysiologist’s observation and analysis.
There are many medications that are specifically designed for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia and are used alone or in conjunction with implantable cardiac support devices (such as pacemakers and defibrillators) or cardiac ablation procedures.
Cardiac ablation is a catheter-based procedure where wires are placed through the veins and into the heart. One of these wires is specially designed to target and either burn away or freeze away areas of the cardiac muscle that contain electrical short-circuits or abnormal electrical pathways that lead to heart rhythm disorders. Once the cardiac ablation is completed, all of these wires are removed. This procedure typically occurs right after the diagnostic catheter study during the hospital visit, and typically involves an overnight observation and a mild recovery period after discharge. Most often, cardiac ablation is used in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia when a heart rhythm is too fast. This condition can cause palpitations or passing out.
Pacemakers are implanted for patients who have heart rhythms that are too slow. These are devices that are implanted in the shoulder area and have wires that are threaded through veins into the heart for monitoring of the electrical impulses of the heart and delivering additional impulses to create heartbeats when the patient’s native heartbeat is too slow. Pacemakers are most frequently used in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia to address slow heart rhythms that cause dizziness and passing out. More complicated versions of pacemakers are also used to improve the blood flow of the heart in patients with heart failure (re-synchronization pacemakers). Pacemakers also can keep records of the types of heart rhythms observed. Modern pacemakers contain highly complex computer systems that can be programmed wirelessly from outside the body to customize and adjust settings based on each patient’s needs.
Defibrillators are implanted in the shoulder in a manner similar to pacemakers. These devices have all of the functions of pacemakers, plus they have the ability to deliver a high-energy electrical shock to restart the heart in the case of cardiac arrest, or a heart that has stopped. Defibrillators typically are implanted in high-risk individuals to prevent death from cardiac arrest, which is the most common reason that patients with heart disease die suddenly. Defibrillators can immediately restore a patient’s life if they collapse due to cardiac arrest, and because they are always monitoring the patient and can act immediately and automatically to restore the normal blood circulation without any patient or doctor intervention, there is often no permanent damage to the brain or heart or other body tissues from lack of blood circulation.
The treatment of cardiac arrhythmia is an ongoing process that your care team at Zambito Heart Center will help you manage. These treatments along with other good health practices such as: eating an appropriate diet, exercising and taking your prescribed medications as directed will help you take charge of your heart health and achieve your best possible health outcome.