Tachyarrhythmia


Tachyarrhythmia

Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

A normal human's heart have a heart beat rate ranging from 60 to 100 beats per minute when in idle meaning when they are resting not doing any heavy activities. When a heart beats at a rate that is faster than 100 beats per minute in an adult is a condition called tachyarrhythmia.

The human heart consists of four chambers:

    Atria - the two upper chambers; a left atrium (LA) and a right atrium (RA).

  • Ventricles - the two lower chambers; a left ventricle (LV) and a right ventricle (RV).

Your heart is made up of four chambers — two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). The rhythm of your heart is normally controlled by a natural pacemaker — the sinus node — located in the right atrium. The sinus node produces electrical impulses that normally start each heartbeat.

From the sinus node, electrical impulses travel across the atria, causing the atria muscles to contract and pump blood into the ventricles. The electrical impulses then arrive at a cluster of cells called the atrioventricular node (AV node) — usually the only pathway for signals to travel from the atria to the ventricles.

The AV node slows down the electrical signal before sending it to the ventricles. This slight delay allows the ventricles to fill with blood. When electrical impulses reach the muscles of the ventricles, they contract, causing them to pump blood either to the lungs or to the rest of the body.

When the heart beats too rapidly, it pumps less efficiently and blood flow to the rest of the body, including the heart itself is reduced. The higher-than-normal heartbeat means there is an increase in demand for oxygen by the myocardium (heart muscle) - if this persists it can lead to myocardial infarction (heart attack), caused by the dying off of oxygen-starved myocardial cells.

There are a lot of possible causes for tachyarrhythmia. The conduction system may be affected and these are the following factors known to cause tachyarrhythmia:

    A reaction to certain medications.

  • Congenital electrical pathway abnormalities in the heart.

  • Consuming too much alcohol.

  • Consumption of cocaine and some other recreational drugs.

  • Electrolyte imbalance.

  • Heart disease which has resulted in poor blood supply and damage to heart tissues, including coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis), heart valve disease, heart failure, heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy), tumors, or infections.

  • Hypertension.

  • Hyperthyroidism (overactive thyroid gland).

  • Smoking.

  • Certain lung diseases.

  • Emotional stress.

  • Depression and anxiety.

Symptoms:

The following symptoms may arise due to tachyarrhythmia.

    Dizziness or fainting.

  • Palpitations.

  • Chest pain or discomfort.

  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea).

  • In extreme cases, tachyarrhythmia can result in cardiac arrest which can be fatal.

Diagnosis:

A good doctor can usually diagnose has tachyarrhythmia and what type it is by asking the patient some questions regarding symptoms, carrying out a physical exam, and ordering some tests. These may include:

    Blood tests - these help determine whether thyroid problems or other substances may be factors contributing to the patient's tachyarrhythmia. Blood tests can also reveal whether the individual has anemia, or problems with kidney function, which could complicate some tachyarrhythmia. Serum electrolytes may also be tested to determine sodium and potassium levels.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) - electrodes are attached to the patient's skin to measure electrical impulses given off by the heart. The impulses are recorded as waves and displayed on a screen (or printed). This test will also show any previous heart disease that may have contributed to the tachyarrhythmia. The abnormality of the heart action is generally obvious right away. The doctor will look for patterns to determine what type of tachyarrhythmia the patient has.

  • Holter monitor - the patient wears a portable device which records all their heartbeats. It is worn under the clothing and records information about the electrical activity of the heart while the person goes about his/her normal activities for one or two days. It has a button which can be pressed if symptoms are felt - then the doctor can see what heart rhythms were present at that moment.

  • Exercise stress test: a test that records the heart's electrical activity during increased physical activity.

  • Tilt-table test - if the patient experiences fainting spells, dizziness or lightheadedness, and neither the ECG nor the Holter revealed any arrhythmias, a tilt-table test may be performed. This monitors the patient's blood pressure, heart rhythm and heart rate while he/she is moved from a lying down to an upright position. A healthy patient's reflexes cause the heart rate and blood pressure to change when moved to an upright position - this is to make sure the brain gets an adequate supply of blood.

  • Nuclear scanning: radioactive material is injected into a vein and observed as it is distributed through the heart muscle to look for coronary artery disease.

Treatment:

The treatment for tachyarrhythmia is clearly aimed for management and to reduce the severity of the situation. It is highly advisable that the patient is subjected for hospital admission, in order to continuous assessment. Close supervision is the ideal treatment for tachyarrhythmia. Here are the medical remedies for tachyarrhythmia:

Ways to slow down a fast heartbeat:

    Vagal maneuvers - this is a maneuver which affects the vagal nerve. The vagal nerve helps regulate our heartbeat. Maneuvers may include coughing, heaving (as if you were having a bowel movement), and placing an icepack on the patient's face. If this does not stop the rapid heartbeat the patient may need an anti-arrhythmic medication.

Other treatment options:

Radiofrequency catheter ablation - this treatment is generally used when the tachyarrhythmia is caused by an extra electrical pathway. Catheters enter the heart via blood vessels. Electrodes at the ends of the catheter are heated to ablate (damage) the extra pathway, stopping it from sending electrical signals. Radiofrequency catheter ablation is especially effective for patients with supraventricular tachyarrhythmia. This procedure may also be used for atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter.

Cardioversion - paddles or patches are used to deliver an electric shock to the heart. This affects the electrical impulses in the heart and restores normal rhythm. This is carried out in a hospital. Doctors say that cardioversion has a success rate of over 90% in early-diagnosed patients. Cardioversion may be used when emergency care is needed, or when other therapies have not worked.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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