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How are heart arrhythmias treated?

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Quick Answer

Treatment for irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, may involve a pacemaker implant if they are abnormally slow, Mayo Clinic notes. When treating fast heartbeats, doctors consider options such as prescription medication, catheter ablation, cardioversion, defibrillator implantation or maze surgery. Doctors may suggest coronary artery surgery for patients with additional heart problems.

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Full Answer

A bradycardia is an arrhythmia slower than 60 beats per minute, according to Cleveland Clinic. An implanted pacemaker can speed up the heart rate by detecting slow activity and periodically sending electrical pulses to the heart muscle. A tachycardia is an arrhythmia faster than 100 beats per minute. Mild cases may be treated with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol, or by taking medication to prevent arrhythmias or blood clots.

A catheter ablation involves guiding a tube-like instrument through a blood vessel and using its electrode tip to damage a small section of cell tissue, strategically blocking the affected pathway, Mayo Clinic states. If fast heartbeats originate in the atria, or upper chambers, physicians may use a cardioversion procedure, or shock paddles, to jolt the heart's electrical impulses and change its rhythm.

Severe arrhythmias in the ventricles, or lower chambers, may be controlled with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator that delivers shocks to the heart, according to Mayo Clinic. When the heart doesn't respond well to non-surgical treatments, doctors may perform a maze surgery by making a set of incisions to deliberately produce scar tissue. Electricity doesn't pass through scar tissue, so the procedure hinders irregular electrical activity in cardiac pathways.

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