Possible Treatment Options for Arrhythmias
In many cases, arrhythmias are undiagnosed and therefore, not treated. However, once a physician has identified an arrhythmia such as atrial fibrillation (Afib), atrial flutter, atrial tachycardia or ventricular tachycardia, they need to figure out whether it is clinically significant or simply a part of your heart’s normal process.
To diagnose an arrhythmia, a physician will need to document it by recording the heart’s abnormal electrical activity. This can be performed by using an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which utilizes small patches called electrodes that are affixed to various parts of the body. The ECG then records electrical activity in the upper and lower chambers of the heart and the timing of electrical events—this is the amount of time it takes electrical impulses to travel through the heart.
In order to be diagnosed using an ECG, the patient must experience an episode at the same time that the examination is administered. This often doesn’t happen, so continuous monitoring using a Holter monitor may be required. A Holter monitor is worn at home by the patient for 24-48 hours, during which time information about the heart’s electrical activity is recorded. Other options for diagnosing arrhythmias include echocardiography as well as an electrophysiology procedure that directly maps the heart’s electrical activity such as the Topera Physiologic Rotor Mapping Solution.
After the physician has diagnosed a clinically significant arrhythmia, he or she will formulate a treatment plan. In addition to pharmacological intervention or managing the disease with pharmaceutical agents, the strategy may include interventional treatments such as radio frequency ablation using a catheter (pulmonary vein isolation, or PVI) and surgical ablation (such as the Cox-maze, mini-maze or maze procedures). In some cases, a pacemaker may be implanted.
Patients with an arrhythmia are also encouraged to manage other cardiac risk factors through lifestyle modifications. This includes reducing blood pressure, controlling their cholesterol, eating healthy, and getting regular exercise.