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Treating Cardiac Arrhythmias

Arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. Many people live with some sort of arrhythmia and remain healthy. Other times, cardiac arrhythmias are more serious and must be treated to maintain normal heart function.

If you have arrhythmia that is causing problematic symptoms or if your irregular heartbeat puts you at risk for more serious heart conditions, you may need to be treated to correct the arrhythmia.

Implantable Medical Devices for Arrhythmias

Arrhythmia can be corrected with a medical device that is implanted into your chest and sends electrical signals to maintain a normal heartbeat.

Two types of devices that can correct arrhythmia are pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD).

A pacemaker is a small device that sends electrical signals to your heart to maintain a normal heartbeat. The pacemaker sends the signal through a wire to an electrode that rests on your heart wall. The pacemaker can also monitor the heart and respond by stopping signals when you heart is beating normally.

Pacemakers can be implanted inside your chest or remain external. External pacemakers are usually temporary.

The ICD is another device which helps your heart beat normally. The ICD is used in people who experience tachycardia (heart beats too fast) or fibrillation (irregular, uncoordinated heart beats that can lead to heart attack). The ICD monitors the heartbeat and responds to tachycardia or fibrillation by shocking the heart to restore normal heart rhythm.

Pacemakers and ICD devices are usually implanted, with surgery, under the collarbone, into the chest, or into the abdominal cavity. Wires are inserted into a vein and guided into the heart. Newer, less invasive procedures are becoming available to implant these devices.

Other Arrhythmia Treatment

Arrhythmia can be treated without implantable devices. One procedure is catheter radiofrequency ablation. A cardiac catheter is used to access and remove abnormal heart tissue that is causing the arrhythmia.


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