Managing Irregular Heart Rhythms

April 02, 2014
An exciting or happy event might make your heart beat faster for a few moments. But if you’ve ever noticed your heart fluttering, racing or beating irregularly for no apparent reason, it’s time to visit a specialist.Abnormal heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias, can happen at any age but are seen more often in older adults. They can be extremely dangerous, because they could lead to a stroke or a heart attack. Although not every arrhythmia is dangerous—and many treatments are available—a thorough evaluation is needed to identify the type of rhythm irregularity and what’s causing it.One of the most common types of arrhythmia in older adults is atrial fibrillation, says Arby Nahapetian, M.D., an electrophysiologist and director of the Electrophysiology (EP) Lab at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. “It’s a frequent cause of stroke, but because there are sometimes no symptoms, it’s often undiagnosed and untreated,” he explains. “Feelings of fluttering in the chest, tunnel vision, dizziness or loss of consciousness could all be symptoms.”Providence Holy Cross now features an Electrophysiology (EP) Labs, which offer specialized services to treat the electrical dysfunctions in the heart that cause arrhythmias. The EP Lab can perform treatments such as cardiac ablation, which uses bursts of energy to destroy heart tissue that may be causing an irregular heartbeat. This helps healthy tissue maintain a normal heart rhythm. Pacemakers and defibrillators can also be implanted to regulate heart rhythms.“We’re starting to shy away from medical therapy and start using ablation and device therapies more vigorously,” says Nahapetian. “Based on clinical and safety trials, we know the outcomes are better