If your arrhythmia requires treatment, your options include:
Several different types of drugs can treat arrhythmias successfully, including anti-arrhythmics (they cause the heart rhythm to return to normal); beta blockers and calcium channel blockers (they slow the pulse when the heart is beating too fast); and anticoagulants (thin the blood and help prevent clots from forming in the blood vessels). Coumadin (generic name, Warfarin) is an anticoagulant thats often prescribed to treat atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm).
Radiofrequency Catheterization or Ablation
Radiofrequency catheter ablation creates an electrical block along the pathway that's causing the arrhythmia. The patient is sedated with local anesthesia. The doctor threads one or more catheters through the blood vessels to the inner heart, positioning the catheters along the electrical pathways that are causing the arrhythmia. Electrodes at the catheter tips are heated with radiofrequency energy, which destroys (ablates) a small spot of heart tissue and creates the electrical block.
Some patients for whom medication and ablation haven't worked may benefit from a surgery called the Maze procedure. Like catheter ablation, it creates scars to stop the arrhythmia. The main difference is that the surgeon opens the chest and visually creates scars on the heart. A robot-assisted Maze procedure offers a less invasive alternative.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)
ICDs help an abnormal heartbeat resume a normal rhythm by monitoring the heart rate and rhythm, and delivering energy to the heart muscle when it detects a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm. They're used in patients with previous episodes of sudden cardiac arrest or ventricular fibrillation; previous heart attack victims who are at high risk for sudden cardiac death; patients with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; or patients with at least one episode of ventricular tachycardia.
Pacemakers and defibrillators
Pacemakers are small, battery-powered generators that deliver timed, electrical impulses to the heart muscle through tiny wire leads to help a patients heart beat in a regular rhythm. A special pacemaker called a defibrillator jump-starts the heart when it malfunctions.
For more information visit the National Library of Medicine, Mayo Clinic or go to HealthKey.com's Heart Health page.