Heart Rhythm Conditions

Heart rhythm problems are called heart arrhythmias. Arrhythmias happen because the electrical impulses that coordinate blood pumping through your heart don't work properly. They cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow or irregularly.

Types of abnormal heart rhythms include:

  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib) – the most common heart rhythm condition, affecting more than six million Americans. It can be difficult to diagnose because it is an irregular heartbeat that often comes and goes.
  • Atrial flutter – a single electrical impulse that occurs in the right atrium, causing a fast heart rate.
  • Bradycardia – a slow heart rate (less than 60 beats per minute).
  • Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) – the heart seems to skip a beat, but it is often just a weak beat followed by a strong electrical impulse.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia – a fast heartbeat occurring in the upper heart chambers.
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VF) – an irregular beat that can cause the heart to stop beating and result in cardiac arrest.
  • Ventricular tachycardia – a fast beat occurring in the lower heart chambers.

Causes of an abnormal heart rhythm vary, but can include an underlying health condition, such as heart failure or coronary artery disease, lifestyle or medications.

The risks for heart rhythm conditions include:

  • Diabetes
  • Drug misuse
  • Excessive alcohol
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet
  • Previous heart conditions or a family history of heart conditions
  • Sleep apnea
  • Smoking
  • Stress

Arrhythmia Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

If you have an abnormal heart rhythm, you may experience some or all of these symptoms:

  • Chest pain
  • Feeling faint, dizzy or lightheaded
  • Irregular pulse or heart palpitations
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating

Heart rhythm conditions can be challenging to manage and require accurate diagnosis and prompt treatment. The experts at Penn State Health will work with you to try nonsurgical methods, such as medication and lifestyle changes, to try to control your rhythm. If that is not possible, we offer leading-edge treatment options, including ablations and cardiac implantable electronic devices like pacemakers and defibrillators. Our personalized treatment plans are aimed at helping you improve your quality of life and in some cases, improve your change of survival.

Experts in Care

Meet our doctors, view their profiles and select the one that’s right for you.

Find a doctor near you

Why Choose Penn State Health for Care

Advanced Expertise, Expert Care in Atrial Fibrillation

The Penn State Atrial Fibrillation Clinic team provides the most advanced care available in central Pennsylvania and serves as a regional referral center for heart rhythm disorders. Our team of experts creates a personalized treatment plan and identifies any potential risk factors you may have. Whether you have intermittent or chronic AFib, we will work to properly diagnose and treat your condition.

We offer the latest advances in catheter ablation. We are able to identify and ablate the responsible areas within the heart to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life. We have many years of experience in ablation and are able to offer you the latest in the advanced technology available, including novel system that can help identify specific areas within the heart that are triggering atrial fibrillation. If you have AFib, we offer the innovative Watchman procedure, for those who can’t tolerate blood thinners. This procedure can help reduce your risk of stroke without the long term risk of bleeding.

Expertise in Device Extractions

Rarely, previously implanted cardiac devices such as pacemakers or defibrillators, can become infected or malfunction. In some circumstances, this can be dangerous and require removal of the device system. This is a highly specialized procedure. We work with a multi-specialty team to perform these procedures and have become a major referral institution in the area. 

Our medical team is consistently recognized nationally through Best Doctors in America and America’s Top Doctors awards.

Leading-Edge Clinical Trials

The heart and vascular experts at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute are committed to offering our patients the latest treatment options, including access to leading-edge clinical trials. This includes a number of abnormal heart rhythm trials that offer new, groundbreaking technology to our patients. Our superb clinical research team includes dedicated research nurses, clinical trial coordinators and data analysts. Learn more about new Penn State Health clinical trials at StudyFinder.

Comprehensive Care for Heart Failure

The electrophysiology team at Penn State Health also offers comprehensive care for heart failure, often caused by a weakening of the heart. Our team will create a personalized treatment plan along with your heart failure team to help you feel better and in some cases, improve survival from life-threatening arrhythmias. Treatments may include:

  • Cardiac ablations
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)
  • Implantable pacemaker

Comprehensive Care for Sleep Apnea

Many people with arrhythmias also have sleep apnea, a serious condition that causes disrupted breathing during the night. In some types of sleep apnea, the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles that are responsible for breathing.

At Penn State Health, we offer an innovative, breakthrough nerve stimulator device that can be implanted in adults with moderate to severe central sleep apnea to help prevent life-threatening sleep disturbances.

Support Groups

Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.

Learn more about support groups offered

Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

Find a location near you