Arrhythmias cannot be cured completely but they can be kept well under control. Most of the arrhythmias are generally harmless and usually resolve on their own.
Before starting any treatment, the doctor will take a detailed look at the following factors.
· Whether the arrhythmias are abnormal, or it just reflects a minor flaw in normal working of the heart
· Whether the arrhythmia is clinically significant and is causing disturbing symptoms
· Whether the arrhythmia will progress into a more serious type of arrhythmia
· Whether the arrhythmia can create serious complications
If the doctor feels that the arrhythmias are abnormal in nature and can cause complication, proper treatment is started. The goals of arrhythmia treatment are
· Prevent the formation of blood clots and thereby reduce the risk of strokes
· Keeping the heart rate within a relatively normal range
· Restoration of the normal heart rhythm of the heart to the maximum possible extent
· Treatment for the underlying heart condition that may be causing the arrhythmia
· Keeping the risk factors under control
Treatment for arrhythmias
Some of the common treatments for arrhythmias are given below. The type of treatment best suited will be decided by the doctor after due consideration of the patient’s condition.
These are very effective in controlling certain types of arrhythmias, especially symptomatic tachycardias. They may be given orally or even intravenously in emergency situations. These drugs work either by suppressing the abnormal generation of signals by the SA node or by depressing the transmission of impulses around the heart tissues. Some of the commonly used antiarrhythmic medications are
· Calcium channel blockers to reduce blood pressure
· Beta-blockers to reduce the heart rate and cardiac output
· Anticoagulants to prevent the formation of blood clots and prevent stroke
This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure that uses radiofrequency energy to destroy the abnormal tissues of the heart that create abnormal impulses. This procedure is very effective in treating supraventricular tachycardias.
The procedure is similar to other cardiac catheterisation procedures. The catheter is introduced into the heart through the blood vessels in the arms or groin. The catheter contains an electrode tip that produces radiofrequency vibrations. The catheter is slowly threaded towards the area of the heart that is to be destroyed. Once that particular area is reached, the electrode is activated to produce radiofrequency energy that produces heat. This heat is used to burn the abnormal tissues. The procedure usually has very few complications and the period of hospitalisation is about two to three days.
A pacemaker is a small electronic device that carries out the functions of the SA node, the bundle of tissue that generates electrical impulses in the heart. The SA node is often referred to as the natural pacemaker of the heart.
The pacemaker has two parts a battery powered generator that generates electrical impulses and two leads that transmit the impulses to the heart muscles. Both the generator and leads are implanted at the same time. The generator portion is implanted usually under the collar bone.
Once implanted the pacemaker takes over the generation and transmission of impulses into the heart. The frequency of the pacemaker is programmed according the condition of the patient. The pacemaker cannot prevent but can rectify any ectopic signals generated by different parts of the heart.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD)
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator is an electronic device that can reduce the occurrence of a sudden cardiac arrest in those with severe ventricular fibrillation.
The device works by identifying the occurrence of a fibrillation and providing mild electric shocks to correct the heart rate. The device is only to be implanted only if conventional treatments to correct the underlying cause of arrhythmias fail.