Fast Heart Rhythms

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An arrhythmia is a heartbeat disorder. One type of arrhythmia is a fast heart rhythm, when your heart beats too quickly. Our doctors offer the expert diagnosis and personalized treatment plan you need.

What is a fast heartbeat?

There are a few types of fast heart rhythms:

Atrial fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation is one of the most common types of heart rhythm disorders, affecting more than 2 million people nationwide. It occurs when the atria, or upper chambers of the heart, fail to beat in a synchronized manner. As a result, the heart doesn’t squeeze normally. Blood may pool and form a clot, which can lead to a stroke. In many patients with atrial fibrillation, the heart beats too quickly.

Ventricular tachycardia

This condition is a rapid heart rate that starts in the heart's lower chambers, or ventricles. It is often associated with other heart problems and may be life threatening. During fast heart rhythms, the heart doesn't have enough time to fill completely before it contracts, which leads to less blood pumped to the body.

Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)

SVT is a rapid heart rate that starts above the heart's lower chambers. SVT is not typically life threatening but can cause palpitations, fatigue, shortness of breath or even passing out. Episodes of SVT frequently start and/or stop suddenly. They can last for minutes or hours. SVT can have many different causes, including an extra electrical connection between the upper and lower chambers.

Sudden cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is a medical emergency that occurs when a patient's heart suddenly stops functioning. During cardiac arrest, blood stops flowing to the body. Without immediate treatment, this can result in death. Sudden cardiac arrest usually occurs in conjunction with other heart problems such as coronary artery disease.

Patients with a previous heart attack, impaired pumping function of the heart muscle or rapid heart rhythms are at increased risk for sudden cardiac arrest. It is critical to identify patients at risk for sudden cardiac arrest so that we can tailor treatment for prevention and appropriate precautions.

Risk factors for abnormal heart rhythms include:

  • Having heart disease or being at high risk for heart disease
  • An abnormal heart valve
  • An electrolyte abnormality in your blood, such as low potassium
  • Taking certain medications
  • An overactive thyroid
  • Low levels of oxygen in your blood

Diagnosis and Treatment: Fast Heart Rhythms

Fletcher Allen's highly skilled and experienced heart rhythm team offers the latest diagnostic tests and procedures to help determine the cause of your problem.

We have the full range of diagnostic therapies at our disposal, giving patients access to the best, scientifically proven methods for detecting heart rhythm disorders. Throughout this process, we work closely with you to make sure you are fully informed at each step of the way.

Learn more about fast heart rhythms diagnosis and treatment.

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