Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Arrhythmia Treatment

Treatment for an arrhythmia depends on the type of the arrhythmia and its underlying cause. Some arrhythmias do not require treatment, while others are life threatening, such as third degree AV block and ventricular fibrillation. Dangerous arrhythmias are ones that result in a heart rate that is too slow, too fast, or becomes disorganized. Treatment dor arrhythmias focuses on addressing the underlying cause. In most cases, medications are used to control dangerous arrhythmias, but cardioversion, pacemaker therapy, or an internal cardiac defibrillator may also be required.

Treatment for a cardiac arrhythmia may include:

For more information:

Arrhythmia Catheter Ablation

Radiofrequency catheter ablation involves the passage of a special catheter into the heart. Radiofrequency energy passes from the electrode in the catheter tip to an electrode on the skin. The radiofrequency energy destroys the cardiac tissue that is responsible for the abnormal rhythm.

This form of therapy may be useful in the treatment of:

Arrhythmia Defibrillator

Implantable cardioverter defibrillator
An implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) is an implanted electronic device that monitors the heart and rapidly detects ventricular fibrillation, the underlying cause of sudden cardiac death. Should fibrillation occur, the ICD generates a counter-shock, forcing the heart to beat normally.

Arrhythmia Drugs

Arrhythmia Pacemaker

Pacemakers are electronic devices that regulate the heart rate within a normal range.

Pacemakers require an electrical wire inserted into the heart. The wire is connected to an electronic device, which generates electrical impulses that stimulate the heart. Most pacemakers are placed under the skin.

Pacemaker Functions
All pacemakers do two things:

  • They sense the electrical signals from a normal heartbeat. As long as the heart is beating fast enough, nothing else happens.
  • The pacemaker sends a tiny electrical impulse to stimulate the heart to beat when the heart is beating too slowly.

Some pacemakers can shock the heart when a dangerous rhythm occurs. These are called implantable defibrillators.

Pacemaker Care
Home care includes:
  • Wear a Medic Alert bracelet, showing that you have a pacemaker.
  • Take acetaminophen for pain.
  • Magnets should be kept away from the chest.
  • The metal in a pacemaker may set off metal detectors in airport and other security stations. Keep your pacemaker wallet card with you at all times.

Pacemaker Warning Signs
If you have a pacemaker, call your doctor for:

Arrhythmia Questions For Doctor

The following are some important questions to ask before and after the treatment of an arrhythmia.

Questions to ask before treatment:

  • What are my treatment options?
    • Is surgery an option for me?
  • What are the risks associated with treatment?
  • Do I need to stay in the hospital?
    • How long will I be in the hospital?
  • What are the complications I should watch for?
  • How long will I be on medication?
  • What are the potential side effects of my medication?
  • Does my medication interact with nonprescription medicines or supplements?
  • Should I take my medication with food?

Questions to ask after treatment:
  • Do I need to change my diet?
  • Are there any medications or supplements I should avoid?
  • When can I resume my normal activities?
  • When can I return to work?
  • Do I need a special exercise program?
  • What else can I do to reduce my risk for cardiac arrhythmias?
  • How often will I need to see my doctor for checkups?
  • What local support and other resources are available?

Arrhythmia Specialist

Physicians from the following specialties evaluate and treat a cardiac arrhythmia:

Continue to Arrhythmia Home Care

Last Updated: Jun 2, 2011 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Arrhythmia References
  1. Boullin J, Morgan JM. The development of cardiac rhythm. Heart. 2005 Jul;91(7):874-5. [15958352]
  2. Page RL. Clinical practice. Newly diagnosed atrial fibrillation. N Engl J Med. 2004 Dec 2;351(23):2408-16. [15575057]
  3. Rubart M, Zipes DP. Mechanisms of sudden cardiac death. J Clin Invest. 2005 Sep;115(9):2305-15. [16138184]
  4. Stieber J, Hofmann F, Ludwig A: Pacemaker channels and sinus node arrhythmia. Trends Cardiovasc Med 2004 Jan; 14(1): 23-8. [14720471]
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