Heart Rhythm Disorders (Abnormal Heart Rhythms)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Absalom D. Hepner, MD
  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What is the prognosis for heart rhythm disorders?

While most heart dysrhythmias can be treated and controlled, ventricular fibrillation or tachycardia can be fatal. Their recognition and treatment are true emergencies, and there is no guarantee that sudden cardiac death can be reversed.

For all other rhythm abnormalities, there may be time to make the diagnosis and design a treatment plan. The goal is to minimize the effect that the dysrhythmia has on daily activity and quality of life.

Can heart rhythm disorders be prevented?

Minimizing risk factors for heart disease will be helpful, including controlling blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, keeping diabetes under control, and not smoking.

For those with rapid palpitations that are intermittent, avoiding stimulants like alcohol, caffeine, over-the-counter cold medications, and illicit drugs are important preventive measures.

REFERENCES:

Mann, D. L., et al. Braunwalds Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th edition: Saunders, 2014.

"2010 American Heart Association Guidelines for Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation and Emergency Cardiovascular Care Science." Circulation 122.18 suppl 3 (2010):S640-S946.

Previous contributing editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2016

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