Arrhythmia Treatment

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Feeling like your heart is beating too fast is scary. Maybe you’ve also been feeling faint or dizzy. You might be afraid you’re headed for a heart attack. But these could instead be signs you have a heart arrhythmia.

You probably have lots of questions. The heart rhythm expert at UVA Health can help. We have years of experience managing and treating arrhythmias. We offer treatments you can’t always find everywhere. And you'll have access to the newest research through our clinical trials.

Arrhythmia Treatment at UVA Health

At UVA Health, we’re always exploring how to help manage and treat heart rhythm problems. Our arrhythmia care was the first of its kind in Virginia. We use high-tech ways of spotting irregular heartbeats to watch your heart while we treat it.

Arrhythmia treatments at UVA Health include:

  • Medicine
  • Therapies
  • Surgery to directly treat your heart or put in a heart device

Medicine is used to control your heart rhythm. It can also prevent other issues, like blood clots. Or it can treat other conditions causing the arrhythmia.

Therapies, like vagal maneuvers or cardioversion, can restore your normal heartbeat.

Heart devices can both spot and treat dangerous heart rhythms. And surgery can treat your heart directly. These might include:

  • Pacemakers
  • Ablations
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs)
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (sometimes called biventricular pacing) for heart failure patients
Bob Wright was able to cycle across the U.S. after getting treatment for atrial fibrillation at UVA Health.

Bob's Atrial Fibrillation Story

An experienced long-distance bicyclist, Bob Wright dreamed of riding across the country one day. But sometimes his heartbeat didn’t feel right. He was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. After an ablation for his afib, Bob was able to get back on his bike and live out his dream.

See Bob's Story

What Is an Arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias are when your heart doesn’t beat in the normal way. Types of arrhythmias include:

  • Heart beats too slow (bradycardia)
  • Heart beats too fast (tachycardia)
  • Extra or skipped beats
  • Beats coming from the wrong parts of your heart

Arrhythmias happen when the part of your heart that controls the beat (sinoatrial node) isn't working right. They also happen when the normal path the electricity in your heart follows is blocked. Sometimes, other parts of the heart take over and control the beat instead.

Some things can increase the chances of having an arrhythmia, like:

  • Too much caffeine
  • Feeling stressed
  • Smoking
  • Too much alcohol
  • Certain kinds of medicine

Some heart problems, like blocked arteries or damaged heart muscles, can also increase the risk of arrhythmias. They can also be caused by other health conditions or emergencies, like anemia, high blood pressure, diabetes, liver disease, electric shock, or nearly drowning.

Arrhythmias don’t always cause symptoms. But you may feel:

  • Fainting or feeling like you’ll faint
  • Dizziness
  • Heart fluttering (palpitations)
  • A missed or extra heartbeat
  • Weakness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Chest pain

Types of Arrhythmias

Types of bradycardia include:

  • Sinus node dysfunction: Caused by issues with your sinoatrial node
  • Heart block: A delay or complete block of the electric impulse going to the lower heart

Types of tachycardia include:

Upper Heart

  • Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT): A fast but regular rhythm. These begin and end suddenly.
  • Accessory pathway tachycardias (bypass tract tachycardias): Caused by an extra electrical path between the upper and lower parts of your heart.
  • AV nodal re-entrant tachycardia (AVNRT): Also caused by more than one electrical path between the upper and lower heart.
  • Atrial tachycardia: A fast rhythm that starts in the upper heart chambers.
  • Atrial fibrillation: A very common condition caused by too many electrical pulses in the upper heart. The pulses compete, leading to a fast and uneven rhythm.
  • Atrial flutter: Like atrial fibrillation, but less severe.

Lower Heart

  • Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs): Early, added heartbeats caused by stress, caffeine, smoking, heart disease, or other issues
  • Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach): Fast heartbeat that keeps the lower heart from filling up fully
  • Ventricular fibrillation (V-fib): Uneven electrical pulses in the lower heart chambers
  • Long QT syndrome: an issue with how your heart recovers and recharges after each pulse