70 North Country Road, Suite 205
Port Jefferson, NY 11777
HVMS@matherhospital.org

Arrhythmia & Pacemaker Management

Heart rhythm problems (heart arrhythmias) occur when the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don't work properly, causing your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

Heart arrhythmias may feel like a fluttering or racing heart and may be harmless. However, some heart arrhythmias may cause bothersome — sometimes even life-threatening — signs and symptoms.

Heart arrhythmia treatment can often control or eliminate fast, slow or irregular heartbeats. In addition, because troublesome heart arrhythmias are often made worse — or are even caused — by a weak or damaged heart, you may be able to reduce your arrhythmia risk by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.

Diagram of Cardiac Arrhythmia

Symptoms
Arrhythmias may not cause any signs or symptoms. In fact, Three Village Cardiologists' might find you have an arrhythmia before you do, during a routine examination. Noticeable signs and symptoms don't necessarily mean you have a serious problem, however.

Noticeable arrhythmia symptoms may include:

  • A fluttering in your chest
  • A racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • A slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Fainting (syncope) or near fainting

Causes
Many things can lead to, or cause, an arrhythmia, including:

  • A heart attack that's occurring right now
  • Scarring of heart tissue from a prior heart attack
  • Changes to your heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy
  • Blocked arteries in your heart (coronary artery disease)
  • High blood pressure
  • Overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism)
  • Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • Smoking
  • Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
  • Drug abuse
  • Stress
  • Certain medications and supplements, including over-the-counter cold and allergy drugs and nutritional supplements
  • Diabetes
  • Sleep apnea
  • Genetics

Types of arrhythmias
Three Village Cardiology physicians classify arrhythmias not only by where they originate (atria or ventricles) but also by the speed of heart rate they cause:

  • Tachycardia This refers to a fast heartbeat — a resting heart rate greater than 100 beats a minute.
  • Bradycardia This refers to a slow heartbeat — a resting heart rate less than 60 beats a minute.

Not all tachycardias or bradycardias mean you have heart disease. For example, during exercise it's normal to develop a fast heartbeat as the heart speeds up to provide your tissues with more oxygen-rich blood. During sleep or times of deep relaxation, it's not unusual for the heartbeat to be slower

To diagnose a heart arrhythmia, Three Village Cardiology physicians will review your symptoms and your medical history and conduct a physical examination. Our physicians may ask about — or test for — conditions that may trigger your arrhythmia, such as heart disease or a problem with your thyroid gland. Our doctors may also perform heart-monitoring tests specific to arrhythmias. These may include:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). During an ECG, sensors (electrodes) that can detect the electrical activity of your heart are attached to your chest and sometimes to your limbs. An ECG measures the timing and duration of each electrical phase in your heartbeat.
  • Holter monitor. This portable ECG device can be worn for a day or more to record your heart's activity as you go about your routine.
  • Event monitor. For sporadic arrhythmias, you keep this portable ECG device available, attaching it to your body and pressing a button when you have symptoms. This lets your doctor check your heart rhythm at the time of your symptoms.
  • Echocardiogram. In this noninvasive test, a hand-held device (transducer) placed on your chest uses sound waves to produce images of your heart's size, structure and motion.
  • Implantable loop recorder. This device detects abnormal heart rhythms and is implanted under the skin in the chest area.

Three Village Cardiologists' treatment for heart arrhythmias also may involve use of an implantable devices:

Pacemaker. A pacemaker is an implantable device that helps control abnormal heart rhythms. A small device is placed under the skin near the collarbone in a minor surgical procedure. An insulated wire extends from the device to the heart, where it's permanently anchored. If a pacemaker detects a heart rate that's abnormal, it emits electrical impulses that stimulate your heart to beat at a normal rate.

Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This device if you're at high risk of developing a dangerously fast or irregular heartbeat in the lower half of your heart (ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation). If you have had sudden cardiac arrest or have certain heart conditions that increase your risk of sudden cardiac arrest, our physicians may also recommend an ICD.

We encourage you to meet our staff and discover the full range of our cardiovascular medical services.
Please feel free to contact us at our main office in East Setauket, NY, with any questions you might have.



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