Specialists in the Heart’s Electrical System
The electrophysiologists at Penn State Health Heart and Vascular Institute treat the most complex cases of heart rhythm disorders or irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). An arrhythmia is when your heart beats too slowly, too fast or in an irregular way. Arrhythmias are more common as you get older and happen when the heart’s electrical system that coordinates your heartbeat isn’t working properly. If you are having irregular heartbeats regularly or for long periods of time it could be dangerous.
Arrhythmias can be caused by medication, heart disease, surgery, congenital abnormalities, and low potassium or electrolytes.
Types of arrhythmia include:
- Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) – The most common type of irregular heartbeat. It is estimated that 2.7 million to 6 million people in the United States have AFib. During AFib electricity flows chaotically from the upper chambers of the heart to the lower chambers. This causes the upper and lower chambers of the heart to be out of sync and beat at a high rate and in an irregular way, causing poor blood flow through the heart and to the body.
- Atrial Flutter – The condition occurs when an electrical impulse within the upper chamber of the heart causes a fast heart rate.
- Bradycardia – Its main symptom is a heart rate below 60 beats per minute due to electrical signals within your heart being disrupted.
- Premature contractions – The heart skips a beat, beats early or has extra beats. This is a very common condition that many people experience occasionally. Often they go away on their own.
- Tachycardia – This condition is when your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute due to your heart’s electrical system firing abnormally.
- Ventricular Fibrillation (Vfib) – Considered the most serious heart rhythm disturbance, this condition causes the lower chambers of the heart to quiver and stops the heart from being able to pump blood.
Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook
The symptoms of an abnormal heartbeat can vary depending on the condition and your lifestyle. Common symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Decreased blood pressure
- Inability to exercise
- Palpitations: racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat, skipped beats or a flopping in your chest
- Shortness of breath at rest or with exertion
Our experts may use several tests to diagnose your irregular heartbeat, including:
- Cardiac catheterization
- Electrophysiologic study (EPS)
- Holter, event, mobile or implantable cardiac monitor
- Imaging tests
- Nuclear thallium test
- Stress or exercise echocardiogram
Many arrhythmias may not impact your health and lifestyle, while others need immediate medical attention. The specialists at Penn State Health will choose the treatment that is right for you. We offer leading-edge treatments such as ablation, implantable defibrillators and pacemakers, the Watchman procedure and cardiac resynchronization therapy.
Experts in Care
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Why Choose Penn State Health for Care
Nationally Recognized Leaders
Our electrophysiologists are world leaders in treatment and research of the heart’s electrical system. They are leaders in national medical organizations and have helped create care guidelines that are used nationwide for patients with arrhythmias.
Advanced Care for Complex Arrhythmia
If your arrhythmia does not respond to medical therapy, our team provides leading-edge interventional procedures and surgical options, and a level of care that is unmatched in the region. Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute offers a multidisciplinary team to evaluate patients for treatment options, perform the procedure and continue to care for patients following the procedure.
Support groups provide an opportunity to share your feelings and connect with other patients and caregivers who are experiencing similar struggles.
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