Arrhythmia is an irregularity in either the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart may beat too fast, too slow or inconsistently. Treatment for arrhythmia can take on many different forms, depending on the type and severity of the irregular heartbeat and what’s causing it.
Medication treatments for arrhythmia are called chemical cardioversion. The patient receives antiarrhythmic medicine orally or intravenously.
Ablation treatments for arrhythmia can be done for different reasons. In atrial fibrillation ablation, small scars are intentionally created to break up the electrical signals that cause the irregular heartbeats in a condition known as atrial fibrillation. During catheter ablation, small areas of tissue that may be causing the arrhythmia are destroyed.
Electric shock treatment for arrhythmia is called electrical cardioversion. This is a planned treatment that delivers a high-energy shock to reset a normal heartbeat rhythm. The electric shock used in electrical cardioversion is not as strong as the one used in defibrillation.
Implantable arrhythmia treatments involve surgical implantation of devices that monitor, synchronize, and/or reset the heart rhythm. Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) uses a pacemaker to restore normal heartbeat timing. Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) treatment helps regulate the heartbeat and will send a “shock,” or defibrillation, to reset the rhythm and prevent cardiac arrest. If a patient’s health care team hasn’t determined the cause of the arrhythmia, they may implant a device called a loop recorder, which continuously tracks the heart’s electrical signals to help with diagnosis.