For the media

Using heart ablation to repair an irregular heartbeat

By The Health News Team | February 7, 2023

The average human heart beats about 100,000 times a day in a synchronized rhythm that usually goes unnoticed. However, some people experience a change — a sudden rapid or skipped heartbeat — which may be a sign of an abnormal heart rhythm, or arrhythmia.

According to Dr. Farah Dawood, a cardiologist affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital, some types of heart arrhythmias are harmless, but others can be an indicator of a heart problem.

What is a heart arrhythmia?

A heart arrhythmia is when the heart beats too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm. Symptoms of an arrhythmia include:

  • Palpitations, or a racing, pounding or skipping heartbeat

  • Fluttering

  • Chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

Some people with arrhythmias have few or no symptoms. And arrhythmias may only be found during testing for other medical conditions.

What is catheter ablation?

Heart arrhythmias that can’t be controlled with medication may benefit from catheter ablation, the most common type of heart ablation. During the minimally invasive procedure, the heart tissue is cauterized — or scarred — to block faulty electrical signals and prevent abnormal electrical rhythms.

Catheter ablations treat a variety of arrhythmias, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation (AFib). AFib is the most common reason for catheter ablation. People with AFib have irregular heartbeats that affect how the heart pumps blood, which can increase risk of stroke.

  • Atrial flutter. Atrial flutter causes a faster than normal heartbeat and like AFib, can increase risk of stroke.

  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). SVT causes fast, abnormal heart rhythms (up to 300 beats per minute) and can lead to heart damage.

  • Ventricular tachycardia (VT). VT causes the heart to beat too quickly and doesn’t allow enough time for blood to fill and pump to your body, leading to a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

A catheter ablation procedure is usually done to improve quality of life and avoid heart complications, such as heart failure and stroke.

“Early treatment of cardiac rhythm disturbances will lower adverse risk of cardiovascular complications like heart failure and stroke,” says Dr. Dawood. “It will also minimize hospital admissions, morbidity and mortality.”

Talk with your doctor if you experience changes in your heart rhythm or have other concerns about your heart health. Treatment can include lifestyle changes, medications, therapies, procedures, and in more severe cases, surgery.

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