Treatment for Heart Rhythm Disorders
Summerlin Hospital is very active in the treatment or cardiac arrhythmias. We use advanced technology to help diagnose the nature and severity of an abnormal heart rhythm. The physicians in our electrophysiology lab can then determine the appropriate treatment. Some heart rhythm problems require no treatment, or they may be corrected by addressing the underlying conditions. Others need more advanced treatments.
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During atrial fibrillation, the heart's two small upper chambers (the atria) quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood does not get pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. A stroke could occur if a piece of a blood clot in the atria leaves the heart and becomes lodged in an artery in the brain.
Patients with more serious arrhythmias often need multifaceted therapy. Doctors will treat underlying conditions that can cause irregular heartbeats, like high blood pressure and heart disease. They also may prescribe anti-arrhythmic medications or recommend implantable devices that control heart rhythms. In some cases, ablation of the atrial fibrillation may be the best option.
To treat atrial fibrillation (AFib), doctors at Summerlin Hospital can perform cryoablation to help restore normal heart rhythm. During this minimally invasive procedure, a balloon catheter (flexible tube) is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the heart. Once it reaches the proper location, the tiny balloon at the end of the catheter is inflated and a gas coolant is used to freeze the heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia. This helps restore a normal heart beat by disrupting the abnormal electrical pathways in the heart.
When a more invasive treatment is needed, radiofrequency catheter ablation may be the solution. In this procedure, physicians place an ablation catheter on the affected heart tissue and deliver high-frequency radio waves that ”zap” the tissue causing the irregular heartbeat. This disrupts the irregular electrical signals and corrects the heart rhythm.
Some of the rhythms treated through radiofrequency ablation are life threatening and some are symptomatic causing significant disruption in day-to-day life. Patients can return to a normal lifestyle within days of the procedure. Some of the rhythms commonly treated by ablation include:
- Supraventricular Tachycardia – The heart suddenly races at very fast rates due to disruption of normal electrical impulses in the heart.
- Atrial Flutter – A rapid, fairly regular abnormal heart rhythm leading to severe symptoms such as shortness of breath, heart failure or stroke.
- Atrial Tachycardia – Rapid heartbeat caused by a runaway focus in the top chamber of the heart.
- Ventricular Tachycardia – An abnormal heart rhythm starting in the bottom chamber of the heart.
Cardiac surgeons at Summerlin Hospital can implant special devices in or near the heart to help correct abnormal heart rhythms. These include:
- Pacemakers – Used to treat patients with slow heart rhythms or fainting spells. To implant these devices, surgeons thread pacemaker wires (leads) through the veins and into the heart. The pacemaker sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to maintain a suitable heart rate. They are easily monitored in an outpatient setting.
- Cardioverter Defibrillator – Used for patients with life threatening or potentially life threatening heart rhythm problems. Defibrillators can function as pacemakers in the event of a slow heart rate, and they can provide therapy in the event of a life threatening abnormal heart rhythm. Some of the devices called resynchronization devices can help improve heart function and symptoms of heart failure in patients who have symptoms despite the best available drug therapy. Tests of heart function ahead of time, such as echocardiogram with tissue doppler or MRI, can help determine if a person is a good candidate for a resynchronization device.