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Heart Rhythm Disorders (cont.)

Electrical and Surgical Treatments

The most common electrical and surgical treatments are listed as follows:

  • Electrical: These include pacemakers and defibrillators (several types including ones that can either pace, defibrillate, or even cardiovert manually ) and automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) that are available to the public, and function with external sources of electricity.
  • Ablation: This technique is done by surgically placing small probes that can destroy tissue and then are removed once the tissue is altered. (Technically, ablation -- which kills cells found usually in the atria, thus stopping arrhythmia-generating cells -- may be done with hot or cold probes.) This is sometimes termed a modified MAZE procedure (see below).
  • Surgical implants: These are pacemakers that regulate heartbeat rates by either including extra beats if the heartbeat is too slow or "overdrive pacing" if the rate is too fast (for example, ventricular tachycardia); defibrillators that detect and then interrupt ventricular fibrillation; and devices that can both pace and defibrillate, all of which are surgically implanted and battery-powered.
  • Surgery: This is open-heart surgery (termed MAZE surgery or MAZE procedure) where small cuts are made in the heart tissue to induce scar formation that blocks electrical impulses or removes cells causing impulses (currently infrequently done).

Electrical cardioversion is most often used in emergencies, although patients with certain arrhythmias who are stable may have electrical cardioversion done non-emergently. Most of the surgical procedures (implants) are done in patients whose arrhythmias are under medical control (temporarily or longer-term).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/21/2013

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