Treatment of heart rhythm conditions
Once you have been diagnosed with a heart rhythm condition, or arrhythmia, specialists focus on choosing the best and most conservative treatment for each patient. Treatment can include recommended lifestyle changes and medication. If an arrhythmia does not respond to more conservative treatment, our team may recommend a procedure.
The Adult Heart Rhythm Program at UK currently offers several first-line treatments based on the arrhythmia you have:
Common medications to treat abnormal heart rhythms include antiarrhythmic agents (which keep the heart in a normal rhythm), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digitalis (which helps maintain a slow heart beat). We tailor medication therapy to each patient by considering many factors, including the risks and quality-of-life effects of the arrhythmia, the presence of any underlying disease, the severity of a person's symptoms, and the risk of medication side effects.
If an arrhythmia cannot be treated with medication or if the prescribed medication doesn’t work, our team may recommend a treatment procedure:
- Cardioversion: During this procedure, we send a brief electric shock to the heart to reset it to a normal rhythm. Patients then often take one of the medicines described above to keep their heart in a normal rhythm.
- Catheter ablation: For many types of arrhythmia, such as AFib and VT, we use this minimally invasive procedure to disrupt the cells in the area of your heart that is producing the irregular heartbeat and restore a normal rhythm. Our team is skilled in different types of catheter ablation, including radiofrequency and cryoablation.
- Maze surgery: This is a type of surgical ablation most commonly used for patients with AFib who need heart surgery for another reason, such as bypass or valve repair. The Heart Rhythm Team at UK also offers a minimally invasive version for patients who either are not good candidates for catheter ablation or have undergone an unsuccessful catheter ablation.
- Pacemaker implant: This battery-powered device is most often used for patients with SSS. It is placed under the skin in the chest and connected to the heart with wires called leads. The pacemaker implant monitors the heart rate and will send electrical signals to make the heart beat faster if it slows. This is called pacing.
- Cardiac defibrillator implant: We use this battery-powered device in patients who have or are at risk for VT or VF. It is placed under the skin in the chest and connected to the heart with leads. Like a pacemaker, it monitors the heart rhythm and can pace the heart if it beats too slowly. If the cardiac defibrillator implant detects a dangerously fast rhythm, it delivers an electric shock to help the heart beat normally again.