Common Types of Arrhythmia

An arrhythmia refers to an abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat. Arrhythmias can happen if the heart beats too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm, as is the case with atrial fibrillation, the most common arrhythmia in the United States.

Most arrhythmias are harmless, but some can be serious or even life-threatening. The heart may not be able to pump enough blood to the body. Lack of blood flow can damage the brain, heart and other organs. Common arrhythmias that we treat include:

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib)

Atrial fibrillation is a rapid, irregular heart rhythm originating in the atria, the upper two heart chambers. A-fib can cause symptoms such as palpitations, rapid heartbeat, chest discomfort, shortness of breath and dizziness. In some people, atrial fibrillation increases the risk of stroke.

Ventricular fibrillation

Ventrical fibrillation is the most serious form of arrhythmia. It originates in the lower chambers, or ventricles, and usually occurs in people who have a damaged heart. Damaged hearts can be the result of a heart attack or structural abnormalities, such as an enlarged heart. Because ventricular fibrillation is so rapid and is occurring in a damaged heart, the heart may not function properly or efficiently, and this arrhythmia can be fatal.

Atrioventricular (AV) node re-entry tachycardia

AV node re-entry tachycardia is a rapid heart rhythm and the most common form of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia or PSVT, also referred to as SVT. Patients with this arrhythmia do not have structural problems with their heart, but have two pathways that can carry impulses to and from the AV node. The AV node connects the upper and lower chambers of the heart. Under certain conditions, usually following a premature beat, these pathways can form an electrical circuit, which starts a rapid (over 100 beats per minute) heart rhythm.

Wolffe-Parkinson-White syndrome

Wolffe-Parkinson-White syndrome is an arrhythmia caused by an extra electrical pathway from the atria to the ventricles. Although some people with WPW do not have any symptoms, others have palpitations, dizziness, and chest discomfort. Rarely, WPW can be life-threatening.

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