Treatment for arrhythmia
Your treatment will depend on the type, cause and severity of the arrhythmia that you have.
Sometimes, such as with ectopic beats, you may not need any treatment because your arrhythmia is unlikely to cause serious problems. Try to steer clear of any triggers of your arrhythmia that you know about, such as alcohol or caffeine. Ask your doctor for advice about exercising.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help control your heart rhythm. These can include medicines to slow down your heart rate, such as beta-blockers, or antiarrhythmic medicines, such as amiodarone and flecainide – these work in different ways to control your heartbeat.
If you have atrial fibrillation, you may be advised to take blood-thinning medicines, such as warfarin, to reduce your risk of blood clots forming.
If you need to have surgery, the exact procedure you have will depend on your condition. Your doctor will advise you which one is most suitable for you.
This may be carried out if you have atrial fibrillation. In this procedure, your doctor will apply a controlled electric shock to your chest from a machine called a defibrillator. This aims to help restore your heart to its usual rhythm. Cardioversion is usually done under general anaesthetic, which means you will be asleep during the procedure, but it can sometimes be done using only a sedative – this relieves anxiety and helps you to relax.
Your doctor may suggest having a pacemaker if you have heart block or sinus node disease. A pacemaker is a small device, usually implanted under your skin in the upper part of your chest. Electrical signals are sent from the pacemaker to your heart to stimulate it to beat at a specific rate. Your doctor will usually fit your pacemaker under local anaesthesia – this will block pain from your chest area and you will stay awake during the operation.
Catheter ablation therapy
You may have this procedure for atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia or ventricular tachycardia. In this procedure, your doctor identifies the abnormal areas in your heart and then inserts a catheter into your heart, via a large vein in your groin. Heat or freezing treatment is used destroy the area that is causing the abnormal rhythm. The procedure is usually done under local anaesthesia.
Ablation of the AV node
If you have atrial fibrillation, it’s possible that your doctor will use catheter ablation to destroy your AV node. You will probably have a pacemaker fitted before the procedure is carried out.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is similar to a pacemaker. If your doctor thinks you may be at risk of a ventricular arrhythmia, you may be fitted with an ICD. This can monitor your heart rhythm and deliver a small electric shock to correct your heartbeat if it detects a problem. ICDs are usually fitted under local anaesthetic in the same way as a pacemaker.
Availability and use of different treatments may vary from country to country. Ask your doctor for advice on your treatment options.