Frequently Asked Questions by our patients:
What is a heart rhythm?
A heart rhythm is an impulse generated from within the heart that commands the heart cells to beat in an organized synchronized fashion.
What is an arrhythmia?
An arrhythmia is an irregular or abnormal rhythm of the heart. The heart may beat too slow (bradycardia) or it may beat too fast (tachycardia). The heart can also beat too early (premature contraction) or too irregularly (fibrillation). Arrhythmias occur when the electrical impulses to the heart that coordinate heartbeats are not working properly, making the heart beat too fast, too slow, or inconsistently.
What are symptoms of an arrhythmia?
Sometimes there are no symptoms and other times, a person may feel some of the following:
- Lightheadedness Shortness of breath
- Fluttering in the chest or palpitations
- Chest discomfort/chest pain
- Fainting or near fainting
What is an electrophysiologist?
An electrophysiologist is a cardiologist that has extra training and focuses on the rhythm of the heart.
Why would I need to see a heart specialist such as an electrophysiologist?
Cardiac electrophysiologists focus on the rhythm of the heart or the electrical conduction of the heart. They focus on diagnosing and treating irregular rhythms or arrhythmias. Electrophysiologists are trained to perform special tests and procedures on the heart’s electrical system, such as ablation as well as implanting pacemakers and defibrillators.
What are the most common heart rhythm disorders?
- Bradycardia: Bradycardia is an abnormally slow heart rate, by definition it is less than 60 beats per minute. However, rates lower than that might be normal for some people.
- Atrial Fibrillation: Atrial Fibrillation is the most common arrhythmia. This arrhythmia is characterized by rapid and disorganized electrical impulses firing in the upper chambers of the heart causing these chambers to beat in a fast, uncoordinated fashion.
- Atrial Flutter: Atrial Flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation; however impulses are somewhat slower and more regular.
- Supraventricular Tachycardia: Supraventricular Tachycardia is a rapid, regular heart rhythm that originates in the upper chamber of the heart.
- Ventricular Tachycardia: Ventricular Tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rhythm that originates in the lower chambers of the heart. When the lower chambers are beating so rapidly, the blood cannot be effectively pumped to the body which causes dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath. It is critical to restore this arrhythmia to normal rhythm. Ventricular tachycardia can progress to ventricular fibrillation.
- Ventricular Fibrillation: Ventricular Fibrillation is a medical emergency. Electrical impulses originating in the lower chambers of the heart are rapid and erratic. It causes these chambers to quiver, no longer effectively contracting the heart. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is critical the first few minutes to restore normal rhythm.
How do I know if I am in atrial fibrillation?
In many cases, people do not experience any symptoms. Symptoms may occur occasionally when atrial fibrillation comes and go and it may last a few minutes to hours. Many times, atrial fibrillation is diagnosed during a routine evaluation and it is not uncommon for atrial fibrillation to be diagnosed as the cause after a stroke. If you have heart palpitations or fluttering in your chest, chest pounding, sudden fatigue, shortness of breath, or fatigue, you should follow up with your doctor.
What causes heart arrhythmias?
- Heart disease such as scarring of the heart tissue after a heart attack or blocked arteries.
- Congenital heart defects.
- Changes to the heart structure.
- High blood pressure.
- Too much caffeine or nicotine.
- Heavy alcohol use.
- Drug abuse such as cocaine or amphetamines.
- Extreme stress.
Questions you may have if you are scheduled to have a procedure:
When do I register at the hospital?
It is important that you pre-register at the hospital at least one day prior to the date of your procedure. You may pre-register anytime from 1 week to 1 day before the date of your procedure if you prefer. The hospital will need to obtain your information as well has verify your insurance coverage and review this with you. You may also meet with the hospital nurse to review your medical history and have blood drawn.
What do I need in order to register?
When you register at the hospital, you should bring your identification card, insurance card, and medications or a list of your medications.
Should I stop any medications before my procedure?
In many cases, you will be asked to stop specific medications, such as your heart medications and blood thinning medications, before your procedure. Please discuss this carefully with your doctor.
Will I stay at the hospital overnight?
If you are scheduled for an ablation procedure or a pacemaker or defibrillator implant, you will mostly likely stay one night at the hospital.
When do I schedule to see the doctor for a follow-up visit after the procedure?
When you are discharged from the hospital, you should call our office to schedule a follow- up appointment to see the nurse or doctor, typically one week after the procedure.
What should I expect and what are my restrictions after I leave the hospital after having an ablation procedure?
In many cases, you will be up and walking rather easily by the time you are discharged from the hospital. You may feel sore and have some bruising around the access sites (groin sites) for about 1 week. You should limit activity to light and non-strenuous activities such as light housework for about a week. Also avoid lifting heavy objects over 10 pounds and prolonged periods of bending and squatting for about a week.
What should I expect and what are my restrictions after I leave the hospital after having a pacemaker or defibrillator implant?
In many cases, you will be up and walking rather easily by the time you are discharged from the hospital. You may be sore around the upper chest and shoulder area where the device was implanted for about 1 to 2 weeks. You will be discharged with a bandage covering the incision site and you should keep this bandage dry and intact for 1 week until you return for follow-up. Avoid raising the affected arm (on the side the device was put in) above shoulder level and do not carry anything greater than 10 pounds for 4 weeks. You will also be instructed to not drive for 4 weeks after the procedure as well.