Cardiac Arrhythmia Treatment Central NJ
You may have heard of atrial fibrillation or Afib, the most common irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia in the United States and worldwide. It is estimated that upwards of 5 million Americans suffer from Afib, which can cause a fivefold increase in stroke and heart attack and lead to congestive heart failure over the longer term. The most common arrhythmias are supraventricular tachycardia or fast heartbeats that originate above the ventricles (lower heart chambers). In other words, the problematic electrical signal emanates from the heart’s atria or upper chambers.
Arrhythmias can also occur in the lower chambers or ventricles. They can cause similar symptoms, including a sensation of the heart beating out of one’s chest, sweating, fatigue, shortness of breath, and more.
Some arrhythmia episodes are so severe that patients believe they’re having a heart attack and are often diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat for the first time during their visit to the emergency room.
Traditional Heart Rhythm Measurement
You may have noticed that when you reached a certain age, your primary care physician hooked you up to an EKG during your annual wellness visit. Indeed, they were looking for any sign of an irregular heartbeat. However, the traditional EKG has a very significant limitation because it only gives your physician a single snapshot in time. If your arrhythmia is paroxysmal or occasional, it may not be found. Many patients who experience mild arrhythmic events think nothing of them and continue with their lives until the episodes become more significant and more frequent.
The Diagnostic Tools at Our Disposal
Because we specialize in arrhythmia diagnosis and treatment, we have several diagnostic devices and tools that a typical primary care physician and even many cardiologists do not have. First is the workhorse known as the Holter monitor. You can consider this to be a portable EKG that is worn on the body and not implanted. The Holter monitor can continually record heart rhythm data for up to three days, at which point Dr. Farrugia analyzes the results and potentially offers a definitive diagnosis.
However, occasional arrhythmias do not have a set amount of time before they recur. Some may only appear once a month – even once a year. As a result, we also offer some of our patients the possibility of an implantable loop recorder or event monitor that can record data for even longer – up to three years.
Once we have diagnosed the arrhythmia, it is time for treatment. For some, excess weight loss and improved diet and exercise may reduce or eliminate arrhythmic episodes. However, often patients require some antiarrhythmic or anticoagulant medication. The primary goal of these medications is to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack while also giving patients a reprieve from what can be very disruptive and scary arrhythmic episodes.
However, approximately 50% of patients do not respond to medication, or the side effects of medication are significant enough that they wish to discontinue it. A minimally invasive procedure known as a cardiac catheter ablation can be considered for these patients. A catheterization involves threading a minimally invasive catheter up to the heart under continuous x-ray or ultrasound guidance. The electrical systems and structures of the heart are then mapped using advanced imaging technology. Using the same catheter, targeted heat or cold is deployed to the areas of the errant heart signals, which then kills the heart tissue and, with it, eliminates the arrhythmia.
The treatment of cardiac arrhythmias is straightforward, but it is incumbent upon the patient to visit their cardiologist at the first signs of an irregular heartbeat to ensure they have the widest number of options available.
If you have been diagnosed with Afib or other arrhythmia or suspect you have a cardiac arrhythmia, we encourage you to visit us as soon as possible to get a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan to address it and move forward.