Athens Regional Health System

Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Also known as arrhythmia, abnormal heart rhythm is an irregular heartbeat that sends some 850,000 Americans to the hospital each year. Many instances of abnormal heart rhythm are not harmful.

Arrhythmia is caused by coronary artery disease, heart muscle changes, injuries brought on by heart attack and/or surgery and electrolyte imbalances. Types of irregular heart rhythm include premature ventricular contractions, atrial fibrillation or flutter and heart block.

Although abnormal heart rhythm can occur without noticeable symptoms, symptoms can be present and can include palpitations (which feel like skipping heartbeats), a pounding of the chest, dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath and fatigue.

Arrhythmia is diagnosed by a variety of tests, including electrocardiograms, stress tests, Holter monitors, event monitors and echocardiograms.

Depending on the extent of arrhythmia , abnormal heart rhythm can be treated through drugs that control heart rate and thin the blood as well as heart surgery, electrocardioversion (a low-energy shock) and pacemakers.

Lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, regular exercise and lowering alcohol and caffeine consumption might be recommended by your doctor.

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