Arrhythmias, or irregular rhythms of the heart, can often strike indiscriminately
and without warning.
Torrance Memorial’s Heart Rhythm Center, within the
Lundquist Cardiovascular Institute, now has three labs dedicated to
electrophysiology (EP) tests to assess and diagnose the cause of arrhythmias. The additional labs,
staffed with highly trained personnel, make it easier to schedule procedures
because multiple doctors can run tests at the same time.
It is difficult to calculate exact risk for arrhythmias, given that physicians
witness arrhythmias in a variety of individuals. To gain a deeper understanding,
Sang Yong Ji, MD, a cardiologist associated with
Torrance Memorial’s Heart Rhythm Center who specializes in electrophysiology. As a matter of prevention, Dr. Ji
discusses risks and common symptoms of irregular heart rhythms.
Is it possible to determine your risk for developing arrhythmias?
There is a wide spectrum of arrhythmias, and the risk factors can vary
in each type.
For example, for atrial fibrillation (the most common arrhythmia in humans)
many studies have shown that the following conditions increase its incidence:
obesity, obstructive sleep apnea, advanced age, hypertension, inflammatory
diseases, increased alcohol intake, certain genetic diseases, etc. For
the ventricular arrhythmia (ventricular tachycardia and fibrillation),
coronary artery disease, history of heart attack, decreased pumping function
or enlargement of the heart, sleep apnea, drug overdose, certain genetic
diseases, etc. are thought to be the underlying risk factors.
What are the most common symptoms of arrhythmia?
The symptoms can vary widely as well, depending on the type of arrhythmia
and its rate [frequency of the resulting heartbeats]. It can range from
minor “skipped heartbeats and palpitation” to lightheadedness,
shortness of breath, chest discomfort, sudden collapse and seizure.
So is there any advantage to recognizing risk and symptoms?
Yes. Optimization of the risk factors could potentially lower the atrial
fibrillation burden and avoid invasive procedures. And failure to identify
patients with persistent cardiomyopathy, despite optimal medical management,
could miss the golden window of opportunity to provide an implantable
cardioverterdefibrillator for prevention of sudden cardiac death. With
that said, the management of different arrhythmias should be tailored
to each patient after a thorough consideration of the risks and benefits
of each therapeutic option, such as conservative management with close
observation, lifestyle modification, pharmacological intervention and
invasive procedure such as catheter-based ablation and/or cardiac device
Symptoms of Arrhythmia
- A fluttering in your chest
- A racing heartbeat (tachycardia)
- A slow heartbeat (bradycardia)
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Fainting (syncope) or near fainting