Heart Arrhythmia Treatments

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Treatments for heart rhythm disorders vary depending on your specific disorder and the severity of your condition. This is why an accurate diagnosis is so important. Once we understand the cause of the abnormal heart rhythm and the severity of your symptoms, we can tailor an effective treatment plan for you.

Heart Arrhythmias: Advanced Care in Burlington, VT

We can treat some heart rhythm disorders with medications. Others may require the implantation of a pacemaker or defibrillator, which are small devices that regulate the heartbeat or shock the heart back into a normal rhythm. Other patients benefit from a procedure called cardiac ablation, a catheter-based procedure, which destroys the tissue causing the irregular heartbeat without the need for open-heart surgery.

National Leader in Heart Rhythm Disorders

As one of the leading programs in the nation for heart rhythm disorders, our patients have access to cutting-edge technology and the latest therapies available. You have the benefit of working with highly trained and experienced electrophysiologists and cardiologists, who are on the frontiers of developments in cardiac medicine. 

In addition, at Fletcher Allen a team of knowledgeable and skilled nurses and other health care practitioners manages all aspects of cardiac care. These caring professionals are instrumental in providing you with the highest quality care available, and the support you need.

Three options for treatment:

Medications

Many medications are available to treat heart rhythm disorders and may be recommended to control your condition. They are also used to treat the symptoms of related conditions, such as high blood pressure or coronary artery disease.

At Fletcher Allen, we offer the full range of medical therapies and the latest pharmaceutical products available to treat your problem.

  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs – Drugs that alter the way electrical signals travel through the heart. They are used to prevent rapid heartbeats, also called tachycardias.
  • Anti-clotting agents or anti-coagulants – Medications designed to prevent blood clots that can cause heart attack or stroke. Patients with atrial fibrillation who are at risk of forming blood clots may benefit from this therapy.
  • Calcium channel blockers – Medicines also known as calcium antagonists that reduce the amount of calcium entering the heart and blood vessels. They lower the blood pressure, relax and widen blood vessels and can be used to control fast heartbeats.
  • Beta-blockers – Drugs that help decrease the demand on your heart. They help the heart muscle to relax, slowing your heart rate and lowering blood pressure.

Ablation 

Sometimes called cardiac ablation or radiofrequency ablation, this non-surgical procedure is used to treat many different forms of rapid heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and atrial tachycardia as well as supra-ventricular and ventricular tachycardia. 

  • Destroying Damaged Tissue - Fletcher Allen’s heart rhythm experts use X-ray monitoring to guide an electrode-tipped catheter into the area of heart muscle causing the irregular electrical impulses. Radiofrequency energy is transmitted through the probe to kill the defective tissue, thereby stopping the abnormal signals and curing the rapid heartbeats.
  • High Rate of Success - Ablation procedures can cure many types of abnormal heart rhythms. In some cases, success rates are as high as 95 percent with a low risk of complications. You will experience little or no discomfort, and can usually resume normal activities in a few days. There are different types of ablation for different types of abnormal rhythms; your doctor will discuss the details of your procedure with you at length.
  • National Leader - At Fletcher Allen, we are a national leader in cardiac ablation procedures, performing the most advanced, up-to-date techniques and continually researching new methods to provide the best possible care for each patient.

Device Therapy

There are several devices the electrophysiologists at Fletcher Allen may choose to treat your cardiac arrhythmias with, including:

  • Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators (ICDs) - Implantable cardioverter defibrillators, or ICDs, are devices implanted in the chest or abdomen that shock the heart back to a normal heart rhythm if you have a dangerously fast beat. These devices continuously monitor your heart rhythm and serve as pacemakers for slower than normal heart rates.

implatable cardioverter defibrillators

Illustration courtesy of National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as a part of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

ICDs have two main parts:

  1. Leads (thin flexible wires) which are attached to the heart to monitor the heart’s electrical activity.
  2. A generator, about half the size of a deck of cards, supplies the battery power and “brains” for the device. The generator stores information about any abnormal heart rhythms you have and keeps track of how often it needs to shock the heart.

What to Expect

To implant the device, our heart rhythm specialists will make a small incision in your upper chest area under the collarbone to insert the generator. Wires are threaded through the blood vessels and connected to your heart – with the other ends connected to the generator. The procedure is usually done under local anesthesia. Patients typically spend one night in the hospital. 

Learn more about ICDs and the procedure in the Fletcher Allen Heart Health Library.

Pacemakers - A pacemaker is a small electrical device implanted under your skin, which helps your heart, beat in a normal rhythm.  It is used to prevent a dangerously slow heart rate.

pacemaker in chest

Illustration courtesy of National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as a part of the National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Setting the Pace

A pacemaker works by sending electrical impulses to the heart to help it pump properly. It has two parts:

  • A small battery-powered generator
  • One to three wires (called leads)

The wires are connected to the generator, which sends electrical impulses through the wires to your heart timed to flow at regular intervals.

Learn more about Pacemakers and the procedure in the Fletcher Allen Heart Health Library.

Biventricular Pacing or Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy (CRT) - This advanced therapy uses a special type of pacemaker to treat heart failure patients whose ventricles, or lower chambers of the heart, are not contracting properly.

Coordinating Pumping of Ventricles - It involves implanting a CRT pacing device (also called a biventricular pacemaker) – a battery-powered device that resets the timing of the two bottom heart chambers. Wires or leads are attached to the right and left ventricles. The pacemaker sends electrical impulses through the wires to keep the right and left ventricles pumping together.

Learn more about Heart Arrhythmias Diagnosis.

Find a Fletcher Allen physician or call 802-847-9675.