What Is Irregular Heart Beat?
Irregular heart beat (arrhythmia) refers to a change in the heart’s sequence of electrical impulses. Types of arrhythmias include:
- Tachycardia: heart rate is too fast (in adults, more than 100 beats per minute)
- Bradycardia: heart rate is too slow (in adults, less than 60 beats per minute)
- Palpitations: heart rate is irregular
- Atrial fibrillation (AFib): upper heart chambers contract irregularly
- Ventricular fibrillation (VFib): disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart
- Conduction disorders: heart does not beat normally
- Premature contraction (PACs and PVCs): early heart beat
What Are Symptoms of Irregular Heart Beat?
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 arrhythmia do occur, they may include:
- Lightheadedness, fainting, or near-fainting spells
- Rapid heartbeat or pounding in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain or pressure
- In severe cases, collapse and sudden cardiac arrest
- Cardiac arrest is a serious medical emergency and can be fatal.
- If someone you know is experiencing any symptoms listed below call 911 and get to a hospital’s emergency department immediately.
- Sudden loss of responsiveness
- No normal breathing (not breathing at all or gasping for air)
What Causes Irregular Heart Beat?
Arrhythmias may be caused by:
How Is Irregular Heart Beat Diagnosed?
Tests to diagnose arrhythmias include:
- Electrocardiogram (“ECG”)
- Stress test (treadmill test)
- Echocardiogram (“echo”)
- Electrophysiology test (EP study)
- Esophageal electrophysiologic procedure
- Tilt table test
- Diagnostic monitors
- Holter monitor
- Transtelephonic monitor
- 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)
What Is the Treatment for Irregular Heart Beat?
Treatment for arrhythmia includes:
- Class I (fast sodium channel blockers)
- Class II (beta-blockers)
- Class III (potassium channel-blockers)
- Class IV (calcium channel blockers)
- Class V (other)
What Are Complications of Irregular Heart Beat?
Complications of irregular heartbeat include:
- Heart attack
- Sudden cardiac death