Arrhythmia

If you have a heart arrhythmia, you may have concerns about how to manage and treat your condition. At the Wake Forest Heart & Vascular Center, our doctors help you understand arrhythmias and develop the right treatment plan for you. 

What is Arrhythmia? 

An arrhythmia is any change in the normal functioning of the heart’s electrical system, which causes a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow, or irregular. The most common types of arrhythmia are: 

  • Atrial fibrillation: fast, irregular heartbeat 
  • Tachycardia: heartbeat that is too fast 
  • Bradycardia: heartbeat that is too slow 

Arrhythmias can cause sudden cardiac arrest, which occurs when the heart’s electrical system stops working properly. Cardiac arrest causes sudden cardiac death when: 

  • The heart beats very fast 
  • The heart’s lower chambers (ventricles) flutter (do not contract properly) 
  • Blood stops flowing to the body 
  • The lungs, brain and all other organs stop working properly and may shut down or be damaged 

Sudden cardiac death can occur within minutes without emergency treatment, such as CPR and/or defibrillation. Emergency medical services (911) should be called immediately. 

Symptoms of Arrhythmia 

People with arrhythmia may not feel any symptoms. If you do experience symptoms, they may include: 

  • Fast or slow heartbeat 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Pounding in your chest 
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness or fainting 
  • Chest pain 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Sweating 
  • Weakness or fatigue 

You may also experience the above signs or symptoms before a sudden cardiac arrest. However, when a sudden cardiac arrest happens, its symptoms are severe:

  • Sudden collapse 
  • No pulse 
  • No breathing 
  • Loss of consciousness 

Diagnosing Arrhythmia 

At the Wake Forest Heart & Vascular Center, our specialists take a comprehensive approach to detecting and diagnosing all types of arrhythmias. We begin with a physical exam and medical and family history of heart disease. To confirm an arrhythmia, your physician may recommend further tests, including: 

  • Blood and stress tests 
  • Cardiovascular imaging, including echocardiogram and cardiac MRI 
  • Diagnostic catheterization, including angiogram 
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) 
  • Event and Holter monitor to record your heart’s electrical activity over 24 to 48 hours 

Learn more about heart and vascular diagnosis at Wake Forest.

Treating Arrhythmia at Wake Forest 

Your treatment will depend on which of the three types of heart arrhythmia you have. In some cases, treatment may not be necessary. We will develop a personalized treatment plan for you, which may include one or more of the following: 

Only you and your doctor can decide which treatment is right for you. All of our patients receive pre-operative counseling to help them understand the risks and benefits of procedures.

Contact Us 

Request an appointment online. Or, for more information, please call: 

  • 336-716-WAKE or 
  • 888-716-WAKE (toll-free) 

 

Quick Reference

Heart & Vascular Center
New Patients

Local 336-716-WAKE
Toll-free 888-716-WAKE

Returning Patients

Vascular 336-716-4151
Heart 336-716-6674

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Last Updated: 05-27-2014
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Disclaimer: The information on this website is for general informational purposes only and SHOULD NOT be relied upon as a substitute for sound professional medical advice, evaluation or care from your physician or other qualified health care provider.