Depending on your diagnosis, your cardiologist will create a comprehensive program to treat your arrhythmia. This program may include:
In some cases, when the electrical flow to the heart gets blocked or experiences a short circuit and disturbs the normal heart rhythms, the most effective treatment is to destroy the tissue housing the short circuit. This procedure is called cardiac ablation. It is a procedure that involves inserting catheters—narrow, flexible wires—into a blood vessel to locate the electrical disturbance and create scarring to disrupt the electrical impulses in the heart that cause the arrhythmia. For many types of arrhythmia, catheter ablation is very successful, often eliminating the need for long-term drug therapies.
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs)
ICDs are invaluable for protecting a patient from sudden cardiac arrest. These small devices, smaller than a business card, are implanted below the collarbone. Wires from the device are led to the heart to continuously monitor the heart's rhythm. If a dangerous arrhythmia begins, the heart is shocked back into the correct rhythm. These devices also keep a record of the heart's rhythms which can be wirelessly transmitted for analysis by the cardiologist.
- Subcutaneous Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (SICDs) - placed just under the skin, this device shocks the heart back into a correct rhythm the same as the ICD. Check with your cardiologist to see if you are a good candidate.
- Medical Management
Depending on the nature and severity of your arrhythmias, your physicians may prescribe medicine to help regulate your heart. Or, they may use medicine in combination with one of these other treatments.
Pacemakers are small sources of electrical stimulation implanted in the heart to maintain a healthy rhythm. Pacemakers are used to treat bradycardia (slow heart rate), as well as atrial fibrillation, heart failure, and syncope.
- Implantable Loop Recorders
Sometimes, a patient's arrhythmia may not show up while the ECG is being recorded. Your physician may suggest loop recording. A small recordable device is placed underneath the skin, close to the heart, and records the heart's rhythms for up to three years. The test results are sent to the cardiologist, so he or she can analyze the patterns to find any cardiac arrhythmias.
In the rare case that your implantable device leads become fractured or infected, laser lead extractions are performed by your electrophysiologist to remove and replace the leads.