Cardiac arrhythmia treatment in Anchorage, Alaska
A heart arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, can be scary. While many instances are ultimately harmless, some can be signs of a serious condition.
At Alaska Regional Hospital, our electrophysiologists and cardiac care specialists are trained to diagnose and treat heart arrhythmias using the latest technology to correct them and help you rest easy.
To make an appointment or to learn more about heart arrhythmias, please call 907-264-2332.
What is a heart arrhythmia?
A heart arrhythmia is a misfire in the sequence of electrical impulses controlling how the heart pumps blood. When these misfires occur, the heart may beat too fast, too slow or just irregularly. As such, there are several heart arrhythmia types, including:
- Bradyarrhythmias — Slow heart rhythms that may be caused by a heart conduction disorder
- Bradycardia — Slow heart rhythms below 60 beats per minute (BPM)
- Supraventricular arrhythmias — Arrhythmias that begin in the heart’s upper chambers
- Tachycardia — Fast heart rhythms above 100 BPM
- Ventricular arrhythmias — Arrhythmias that begin in the heart’s lower chambers
Heart arrhythmia causes
Heart arrhythmias can be caused by a variety of different factors, some more serious than others. These causes include:
- Blocked arteries
- Congenital heart abnormalities
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Medications and/or supplements
- Sleep apnea
- Stress and anxiety
- Thyroid complications
Heart arrhythmia symptoms
Heart arrhythmias bring on an array of symptoms, so it is important to pay attention to your body if you are concerned you may be experiencing an issue. Symptoms to monitor include:
- Chest flutters
- Chest pain
- Dizziness, fainting and lightheadedness
- Shortness of breath
In rare cases, arrhythmias can cause heart failure, so please call your doctor or 911 as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
Heart arrhythmia treatments
The cardiac arrhythmia specialists at Alaska Regional offer numerous treatments to help patients diagnose, remedy and move on from a heart arrhythmia episode. These treatment options include:
Cardiac resynchronization defibrillator (CRT-D) therapy
CRT-D therapy combines the benefits of defibrillation — electric shocks that restore normal heart rhythm — with synchronous biventricular pacing, which re-coordinates mismatched ventricle contractions to improve heart pumping function. CRT-D therapy is used in individuals who qualify for an implantable cardioverter defibrillator and who also have moderate-to-severe heart failure. CRT-D is generally recommended for individuals with generally poor heart-pumping function.
An electrophysiology study is a procedure that examines the heart’s electrical activity in order to diagnose the source of abnormally slow or fast heart rhythms. They are also used to evaluate a person’s risk for sudden cardiac death, to reveal suspected arrhythmias, provoke ones that occur infrequently, as well as assessing symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness, fatigue and shortness of breath.
When performing an electrophysiology study, a catheter will be gently threaded through the artery and into your heart with the help of X-rays on a television screen. Electrodes located at the end of the catheter send electrical signals to your heart to make it beat at different speeds. These electrodes also receive electrical signals from your heart, so that your heart rhythm can be recorded to assess possible abnormalities.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) therapy
ICD therapy is a lifesaving treatment for individuals with or at high risk of developing ventricular arrhythmias. An ICD is a small battery-operated device that is implanted in the chest to continuously monitor the heart’s rate and rhythm. Implantable defibrillators combine the function of a pacemaker with the function of an external defibrillator.
If the heart slows or speeds up too much, the pacemaker element provides pacing to restore a normal heart rate. If the heart begins to beat in a disorganized fashion, the device provides a shock to restore normal rhythm. The procedure lasts anywhere between one and three hours and requires an average of one to three days in the hospital afterward for observation.
An implantable pacemaker is a small, battery-operated device that uses electrical impulses to regulate or reproduce the heart's rhythm. This device is implanted in the chest, under the skin, and generally has two parts:
- Generator — Typically weighs less than an ounce and contains the battery and information to control the heartbeat
- Leads — Wires used to connect the heart to the generator and send the electrical impulses to the heart to tell it to beat
Pacemakers are externally programmable and allow our cardiology specialists to select the optimum pacing modes for individual patients. Those that require a pacemaker typically have a bradycardia, a tachycardia, severe heart failure or a block in the heart’s electrical conduction system. Most patients go home within one day of the procedure.