Why Hearts Beat Irregularly

Electrical impulses coordinate the heart beat, but sometimes they don’t work properly, leading someone’s heart to beat too quickly (called tachycardia), slowly (called bradycardia) or irregularly, a problem known as an arrhythmia. A patient with an arrhythmia may experience fluttering (palpitations), pounding in the chest, dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, or an uncomfortable feeling in the chest.

Some heart rhythm problems are harmless and temporary, brought on by too much caffeine or cold medicine. Others, however, can be life threatening, especially if they are caused by a structural issue within or near the heart.

Atrial fibrillation (disorganized beating originating in the upper chambers of the heart) is one of the most common types of heart rhythm problems. Individuals who have this condition may experience weakness and fainting, and they have high risk of cardiovascular events such as stroke or heart attack.

“I couldn’t have had better care.”
Surgery fixed Robert Huber's heart rhythm problem, and now he's cycling and walking again.
Basics

  • Each heartbeat is initiated by an electrical impulse that triggers the heart’s chambers to work in sync.
  • If something goes wrong with the heart’s electrical system, the heart may beat irregularly. This is called an arrhythmia.
  • Atrial fibrillation (or afib) is one of the most common arrhythmias.
Symptoms

  • A fluttering sensation in the chest or neck
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting or near fainting spells
  • Rapid heart beat or a pounding sensation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
Advanced Treatments

  • A series of small, fine incisions can be made in the two smaller chambers of the heart (the atria) to create scar tissue that blocks faulty electrical signals.
  • Cryoablation (the freezing of cells) can destroy heart tissue, stopping it from contributing to an irregular heart beat.
  • Minimally invasive and robotic heart surgery can fix the valves or artery blockages that might be contributing to the heart rhythm problem.
  • Implantable cardio defibrillators deliver energy only when needed, to keep the heart beating normally.

How We Can Help

Our heart and vascular services offer a wide range of solutions. These include medications that help to normalize the heart beat as well as catheter-based interventions and implantable pacing devices. Our specialists strive to use these minimally-invasive solutions whenever possible.

Sometimes, however, surgery is required, especially for patients with malfunctioning heart nodes — or points of convergence of electrical signal conduction — on or near the heart. Among many advanced procedures, we offer:

  • The Maze procedure: For people with atrial fibrillation, this procedure can help to restore the heart’s normal rhythm. It involves a series of small, fine incisions into the two smaller chambers of the heart (the atria) to create scar tissue that blocks faulty electrical signals. Surgeons can sometimes use a special catheter that delivers various types of energy (often radiofrequency energy) to create these scars.
  • Cryoablation: Used to help patients with tachycardia, this freezing of cells can destroy poorly functioning heart tissue, stopping it from contributing to an irregular heart beat.
  • Minimally invasive surgery, including robotic heart surgery: These options are used to repair valves or artery blockages that might be contributing to someone’s heart rhythm problem.

Advanced Care

We specialize both in conventional care as well as the most advanced, minimally-invasive approaches.

Our highly experienced specialists include cardiologists (experts in blood vessel problems), electrophysiologists (experts in heart rhythm problems) and cardiovascular surgeons (who specialize in the repair of heart and blood vessel problems). These specialists work together as a team to get to know you, listen to your concerns, and help you choose the best treatment for your specific problem.