Arrhythmias

Heart rhythm disturbances are quite common, and most of the time are quite annoying or concerning to the individual, but do not cause any harm. However, certain heart rhythm disturbances can be a sign of underlying heart problems. Some arrhythmias are dangerous and can cause dizzy spells and collapse. Determining which of these arrhythmias are dangerous and which are benign can be very difficult, especially when the arrhythmia is not recorded on a heart monitor or ECG.

Common types of arrhythmias

Common arrhythmias include ectopic beats (atrial or ventricular), tachycardias (supraventricular or SVT, or paroxysmal atrial tachycardia PAT) or irregular rhythm (atrial fibrillation/flutter AF).

Below is a video on the common arrhythmias:

Atrial fibrillation (AF)

AF is the most commonly recognised heart rhythm disturbance, leading to increased risk of stroke, heart failure and death in some individuals. AF is most commonly found in the elderly (over age 65), but can be found in all age groups. The primary disturbance is in the top chambers of the heart (the atria), where regular heart beat is lost. Instead there is chaotic irregular rapid fibrillation of the atria, leading to transmission of rapid and irregular heart beats in the ventricles. Over time, this irregular and rapid heart beat can lead to heart muscle weakness or heart failure. When the top chambers don’t contract regularly, blood can congeal in the various parts of the atria, especially in the left atrial appendage. These clots can break off and move to other parts of the body. When these clots block circulation to part of the brain, a stroke results. Stroke due to atrial fibrillation is responsible for approximately 1 in 4 strokes in Australian hospitals. Atrial fibrillation, once identified, should be managed as soon as possible.

Here is a youtube movie about atrial fibrillation: