A cardiac arrhythmia is a heart rhythm disorder. This occurs when the heart’s regular electrical activity (sinus rhythm) becomes erratic and the irregular impulses are spread throughout the upper and lower chambers of the heart. Blood is pumped through the body in the lower chambers. Stimulation of the heart muscles in the lower chambers occurs via the electrical impulses from the sinus node. When the body is in a time of physical or emotional stress, it needs more oxygen-rich blood. To meet the demands, our heart beat is accelerated by the nervous system. In the case of arrhythmias, the heart’s contraction and electrical impulse generation can be disrupted. 

Irregular heart rhythms affect millions of people and can cause life-threatening conditions such as heart failure, stroke, or sudden cardiac death. Our electrophysiologists are highly trained to diagnose and treat these arrhythmias with careful assessments to help determine your most beneficial treatment.

Types of arrhythmias

A heart arrhythmia can disrupt the electrical activity of the heart as well as the contraction abilities. They can occur in the upper and lower heart chambers as either tachycardia-dangerously fast heartbeat or bradycardia-dangerously slow heartbeat. Known types of Arrhythmias include:

  • Bradycardia: The heart beats too slow at rest with 50 beats per minute or less. This sort of heart rhythm can be considered normal for some athletes. 
  • AV blocks/complete heart block: Impaired conduction between the top and bottom of the heart, varying to different degrees .
  • Ectopy: Isolated extra heartbeats coming from the atria or ventricles that that are mostly harmless. 
  • Atrial fibrillation: Extremely fast, chaotic activity in the upper heart chambers with an irregular pulse. Has a high risk of thromboembolism (blocking of a blood vessel by a blood clot) and stroke. 
  • Atrial flutter: Fast contractions of the upper heart chambers (atria) with a regular pulse of 120-140 beats per minute. 
  • Ventricular tachycardia: A dangerous, very fast and sporadic activity in the lower heart chambers. 
  • Ventricular fibrillation: A drastic, life-threatening condition of very fast and chaotic activity in both the upper and lower heart chambers without a pulse.

Personalized treatment

With the state-of-the-art equipment and technology at the Fred & Lena Meijer Heart Center, you are in the best place to access the latest treatments for heart arrhythmias. What truly sets us apart is the way we care for you. Spectrum Health electrophysiologists not only work together to come up with the best care plans for our patients, but also to deliver the best patient experience possible.

For example, when we implant pacemakers, we safely and effectively let patients go home the same day, rather than spending a night in the hospital. The next day, the patient’s device is checked remotely via the Internet. This keeps costs down, has proven to be just as safe, and it makes patients happier to be home in the comfort of their own beds.

Treatment options

Ablation procedures
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This procedure guides a wire into your heart to destroy small areas of heart tissue that may be causing your abnormal heartbeat. Heat (radiofrequency) or cold energy (cryoablation) are the two most common ways to destroy abnormal heart tissue. It's an alternative to long-term or lifelong medication therapy.

Cardiac rhythm monitoring
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With consistent check-ins and some assisted mechanical devices we can keep an eye on your heart rhythm, helping to understand and diagnose certain heart disease.

Catheter-based mapping
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This is a minimally invasive procedure that identifies the location of heart rhythm abnormalities in the heart so treatments like ablation can be more effective.

Implantable cardioverter defribrillator
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This device combines the steady regulation of a pacemaker with the ability to shock the heart back into rhythm. It is used to treat congestive heart failure as well as arrhythmia, which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest.

Medication management
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Along with very important lifestyle changes, there are a variety of medicines used to help treat heart conditions. Medicines for heart disease are used to ease discomfort or lessen symptoms, but some can also be essential in preventing life-threatening episodes. It is important to take your medicines exactly as prescribed, and work with your doctor on both lifestyle and medicine changes.

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Your doctor may recommend a pacemaker to stimulate a faster heart rate when your heart beats too slow and the problem can't be fixed with other treatments.

Stereotaxis navigation
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A method of ablation that offers a more precise, and potentially more effective, delivery of the treatment.

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