Care for Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Why Choose Treatment for Arrhythmia at University of Colorado Hospital?
Arrhythmias - abnormal heart rhythms - are relatively common. It's safe to say that millions of people in the U.S. have them to some degree.
It's also safe to say that diagnosing and treating arrhythmias is a mainstay for cardiology practices. So why come to UCH?
At University of Colorado Hospital, our heart specialists are not only skilled physicians, but committed teachers at the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine.
They stay current with the latest medical findings. And they bring to patient care the latest diagnostic approaches and most advanced treatment regimens, because they're teaching the next generation of heart specialists.
Cardiac Electrophysiology (EP) and Arrhythmia Clinic
A clinic dedicated to precision diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation ("a-fib") and ventricular tachycardia.
The EP program at University of Colorado Hospital is the largest in the region, with 7 dedicated specialists managing the most complex arrhythmias and performing the most advanced procedures.
Types of Arrhythmias
Premature (extra) beats
Premature beats are a common, but usually harmless, kind of arrthythmia. Most of the time they need no treatment, especially in healthy people.
These arrhythmias are "tachycardias" (fast heart rates). They include the following types:
- Atrial fibrillation (AF)
- Atrial flutter
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
- Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome
Tachycardias can affect the heart's ability to pump blood. They should be analyzed by a heart specialist.
As the name suggests, these arrhythmias start in the ventricles, and are potentially dangerous. They often need prompt medical attention. They include:
- Ventricular tachycardia
- Ventricular fibrillation
These arrhythmias are characterized by slower than normal heart rates, usually below 60 beats per minute. Slow heart rates can mean that not enough blood is pumped to the brain, causing a loss of consciousness.
Cardiac electrophysiologist - a doctor who specializes in diagnosing and treating irregular heart rhythms caused by problems with the heart’s electrical system.
Cardiac electrophysiology fellow - a doctor whose training emphasizes teaching and research and who is receiving clinical training in cardiac electrophysiology.
Other Arrhythmia Staff
Nurse practitioner - a registered nurse who has completed advanced education and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses.
Cardiac electrophysiology nurse - a registered nurse who has completed education and training in the diagnosis and management of electrophysiological conditions.
It is important for your doctor to know where the arrhythmia starts in your heart and whether it is abnormal. One or more of the following tests are commonly used to detect arrhythmias:
Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
This test determines the rate and regularity of the heartbeat. The ECG is administered with wires that are painlessly attached to your body and removed once the test is finished. The wires detect electrical signals from the heart, which are recorded on a machine for the doctor’s review.
Holter monitors, or portable ECG units
Worn by an arrhythmia patient to monitor the heart 24 hours a day.
This test evaluates your response (changes in heart rate and blood pressure) to moving from lying down to sitting up.
Electrophysiologic (EP) study
Maps the electrical signals generated by the heart. The EP study requires the insertion of a thin tube (catheter) through a vein.
Beneficial lifestyle changes include quitting smoking and limiting alcohol and caffeine.
Your doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent and control arrhythmias and to treat related conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease (CAD) and heart failure.
Anticoagulants (blood thinners) may be prescribed to reduce your risk of blood clots and stroke.
A pacemaker helps your heart beat regularly. A pacemaker is a small generator, implanted under the skin, that produces the electrical impulses that stimulate the heart to contract and pump blood to the rest of the body.
Cardiac defibrillation and implanted cardiovertor defibrillators (ICD). Defibrillation is a way of returning a heartbeat to normal with a very brief electrical shock. Internal defibrillators can be placed under the skin in the upper chest.
A doctor performs this procedure by putting a catheter in a vein and guiding it to the heart. The tip of the catheter delivers small bursts of energy that destroy very small areas of heart tissue that cause arrhythmias.
Studies on arrhythmia currently conducted at University of Colorado Hospital include:
- Heart electrical signal processing to determine the patient's risk for ventricular fibrillation (fluttering or twitching in the muscles of the lower chamber of the heart, which can lead to sudden cardiac death).
- Studies of electrical signals in patients with congenital (dating from birth) heart disease to determine their risk of sudden cardiac death.
- Right ventricle electrical signal mapping in patients with nodes on the heart to determine the risk of sudden cardiac death.
Living With Arrhythmia
One important way to manage arrhythmias is to reduce stress:
- Get plenty of rest and sleep
- Talk about issues with loved ones and friends
Getting a Second Opinion about Arrhythmia
The doctors and staff of University of Colorado Hospital are happy to provide second opinions for patients who have symptoms of or a diagnosis of arrhythmia. For inquiries, call (720) 848-5300.
Arrhythmias at a Glance
Arrhythmia refers to any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses generated by the heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms.
Some arrhythmias are brief and do not affect the heart rate or rhythm. However, arrhythmias that last for some time may cause the heart rate to be:
- Too slow (bradycardia)
- Too fast (tachycardia)
Arrhythmias are common. The most common, atrial fibrillation (quivering in the upper chamber of the heart), affects up to 2.2 million Americans.
Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute