How Do You Fix an Irregular Heartbeat?

Reviewed on 6/9/2022
A heart rate pulse stethoscope
Treatment to fix irregular heartbeat includes antiarrhythmic medications, anticoagulants (blood thinners), cardioversion, ablation, and implantable devices (pacemakers, implantable cardioverter defibrillator [ICD]).

Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) is a change in the heart’s sequence of electrical impulses. 

Types of irregular heartbeats include:

  • Palpitations: heart rate is irregular
  • Bradycardia: heart rate is too slow (in adults, less than 60 beats per minute)
  • Tachycardia: heart rate is too fast (in adults, more than 100 beats per minute)
  • Ventricular fibrillation (VFib):  disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart
  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib): upper heart chambers contract irregularly
  • Conduction disorders: heart does not beat normally
  • Premature contraction (PACs and PVCs): early heart beat

Treatment to fix irregular heartbeat includes:

  • Medications  
    • Antiarrhythmics
      • Class I (fast sodium channel blockers) 
      • Class II (beta blockers)
      • Class III (potassium channel blockers)
      • Class IV (calcium channel blockers)
      • Class V (other)
    • Anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin
  • Cardioversion
  • Ablation
  • Implantable devices

What Are Symptoms of Irregular Heartbeat?

Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) may not cause any symptoms or only minor symptoms such feeling as if you skipped a heartbeat or feeling of fluttering in the chest or neck. 

When symptoms of irregular heartbeat occur, they may include:

  • Fatigue 
  • Lightheadedness, fainting, or near-fainting spells 
  • Rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest 
  • Dizziness 
  • Weakness 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain or pressure 
  • Anxiety 
  • In severe cases, collapse and sudden cardiac arrest 
    • Cardiac arrest is a serious medical emergency and can be fatal
    • If someone you know experiences any symptoms listed below call 911 and get to a hospital’s emergency department immediately
      • No normal breathing (not breathing at all or gasping for air)
      • Sudden loss of responsiveness 

See a doctor right away if you have an irregular heartbeat and:

How Is Irregular Heartbeat Diagnosed?

Tests to diagnose the cause and type of irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) include: 

  • Stress test (treadmill test)
  • Electrocardiogram (“ECG”) 
  • Echocardiogram (“echo”)
  • Electrophysiology test (EP study)
  • Esophageal electrophysiologic procedure
  • Tilt table test
  • Diagnostic monitors
  • Cardiac catheterization (“cardiac cath”) 
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan of the heart 
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan of the heart
  • Blood tests: brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) or N-terminal pro-BNP (NT-proBNP) 
Reviewed on 6/9/2022
Image Source: iStock Images