Heart arrhythmias are disruptions in a regular heart rhythm, which can include slow, irregular or fast heart beats. They occur when the electrical impulses to the heart stray from their normal sequence and can range from being harmless to life-threatening.
Electrophysiologists in Gainesville
Irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, aren't always serious, but when they are, our doctors can help diagnose and treat your condition using the latest technology.
The Heart & Vascular Center at HCA Florida North Florida Hospital is home to skilled cardiologists and cardiac specialists who provide excellent heart care. This includes advanced diagnostics and treatment options for heart arrhythmias. We focus on noninvasive and minimally invasive procedures to help patients' hearts beat normally.
An arrhythmia is a medical condition that causes an irregular heartbeat because of electrical impulses occurring inconsistently, too quickly or too slowly.
Our cardiac electrophysiologists are an essential part of the team at The Heart & Vascular Center. They perform electrophysiology (EP) procedures using heart mapping technology in our cardiac catheterization lab.
An EP study is heart rhythm screening performed for patients with diagnosed cardiac arrhythmias. The study helps our doctors determine the location of the irregular heartbeat and decide on a treatment plan.
An EP study uses catheters that are placed inside the heart. The catheters are used by the electrophysiologist to stimulate the heart with a mild electrical current. This helps determine the electrical properties of the heart and initiate an abnormal heart rhythm for tracking.
Types of arrhythmias we treat
There are several types of arrhythmias, each producing a different heartbeat pattern due to different electrical impulse rhythms firing in the heart.
A healthy heart typically pumps between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). A slow heartbeat, at a rate below 60 bpm, is referred to as bradycardia. A fast heartbeat, more than 100 bpm, is referred to as tachycardia. A heartbeat below 60 bpm that is caused by a dysfunction with the muscle cells that send signals to the heart is referred to as bradycardia.
Additionally, there are several other arrhythmias that occur either in the lower chamber (ventricles of the heart) or in the upper chamber (atria of the heart).
We treat all types of arrhythmias, including:
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
- Atrial flutter
- Heart block
- Long QT syndrome (LQTS)
- Premature atrial contractions (PACs)
- Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs)
- Sinus node dysfunction (sick sinus syndrome)
- Tachycardia, such as:
- Accessory pathway tachycardia (bypass tract tachycardia)
- Atrial tachycardia
- Atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia (AVNRT)
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
- Sinus tachycardia
- Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach)
- Torsades de Pointes
- Ventricular fibrillation (VFib)
Atrial fibrillation (AFib)
AFib refers to a rapid or irregular heartbeat that can wind up leading to blood clots. AFib is caused by your heart’s atria beating out of sync with its ventricles. In other words, when the upper cardiac chamber is beating out of sync with the lower chamber. While not typically life-threatening, AFib is still a very serious condition that can increase your risk for heart failure, stroke and other difficulties. Warning signs include palpitations and chest pain accompanied by shortness of breath or fatigue. If any of these begin to appear, we encourage you to seek treatment as soon as possible. Depending on the severity of your condition, AFib can potentially be treated through the use of medications, including beta blockers or blood thinners. If medication does not adequately address your condition, minimally invasive cardiac catheterization procedures may be utilized, including cardiac ablation or a left atrial appendage closure (LAAC).
If a cardiac arrhythmia is diagnosed, there are a number of treatment options available to control an irregular heartbeat, including cardiac surgery.
Types of heart arrhythmia treatments
Treatment options will vary depending on the type of heart arrhythmia that is present. If there is a risk for complications with the heart’s processes, patients may be provided treatment options such as:
- Pharmaceutical drugs - anti-arrhythmic drugs work to prevent arrhythmia; anticoagulants reduce the risk of a blood clot and other drugs are used to control heart rate
- Devices - pacemakers and defibrillators, used to maintain a regular heartbeat, are implanted inside the body; pacemakers send electrical impulses to the heart, typically when it beats too slowly, and defibrillators detect irregular beats to deliver a shock to the heart, typically when it beats too fast
- Procedures - certain arrhythmias require cardiovascular surgery or a cardiac catheterization procedure, such as ablation, to stop electrical impulses from affecting the heart
Cardiac catheter ablation
A cardiac ablation is a treatment that involves identifying and eliminating a cardiac arrhythmia through the use of radio frequency or cryothermal energy sources. The goal of this treatment is to redirect the electrical signals that are causing an arrhythmia so the heart can beat normally again.
Catheter ablations are performed for patients experiencing the following types of arrhythmias: atrial fibrillation (aFib), atrial flutter and supraventricular tachycardia.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) implant
An ICD is an electronic device that is placed in the chest to constantly monitor the heart's rhythm. If a very fast or abnormal heart rhythm is detected, it delivers a small electrical shock to the heart. The shock causes the heart to restore a normal rhythm.
Ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation are two types of arrhythmias that cause the heart to beat very fast. These conditions are often treated with ICD implants.
During the ICD implant procedure, the cardiologist will make a small incision in the upper chest where the device and its lead are inserted. The lead is inserted into a vein and guided to the heart. The tip of the lead is attached to the heart, while the other end of the lead is attached to the pulse generator. The generator is placed in a pocket created underneath the skin of the upper chest area.
A pacemaker of the heart is a device that sends small electrical impulses to the heart to maintain a normal heart rate. Our physicians will decide on the minimum rate (lowest heart rate) to set your pacemaker. When the heart rate drops below the set rate, the pacemaker will generate an electrical impulse that is sent to the heart.
There are many types of pacemakers available, and our doctors will determine which is the right option. After the pacemaker is inserted, the doctor is able to use an external device to program the finalized pacemaker settings.
A pacemaker may also be used to treat patients with fainting spells (syncope), congestive heart failure and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
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