Conditions + Treatments

Arrhythmias | Treatments

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What are the treatment options for an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias may be present but cause few, if any, problems. In some cases, your child's physician may choose not to treat the arrhythmia. However, when the arrhythmia causes symptoms, there are several options for treatment:

  • lifestyle modifications: factors such as stress, caffeine, or alcohol can provoke arrhythmias
  • medication: will be determined by the type of arrhythmia, other conditions which may be present, and other medications already being used by your child.
  • cardioversion: small, electrical shock is delivered to the heart through the chest to stop certain fast arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation, supraventricular tachycardia or atrial flutter
  • ablation: invasive procedure done in the electrophysiology laboratory, and involves inserting a small, thin tube catheter (a very thin, flexible hollow tube) into the heart through a vessel in the groin or arm. Then using radiofrequency ablation (very high frequency radio waves that heat the tissue until the site is destroyed) or cryoablation (an ultra-cold substance that freezes the tissue and destroys the site), the site of the arrhythmia may be destroyed.
  • pacemaker: small device is implanted under the skin and sends electrical signals to start or regulate a slow heartbeat
  • implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): small device, similar to a pacemaker, is implanted under the skin, often in the shoulder area just under the collarbone. An ICD senses the rate of the heartbeat. When the heart rate exceeds a rate programmed into the device, it delivers a small, electrical shock to the heart to slow the heart rate. Newer ICDs are combined with a pacemaker to deliver an electrical signal to regulate a heart rate that is too slow. ICDs are used for life-threatening fast arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation.
  • surgery: usually done only when all other options have failed. Surgical ablation is a major surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. The chest is opened, exposing the heart. The site of the arrhythmia is located, then destroyed or removed.
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