Arrhythmias are disorders of the heart rate or heart rhythm, such as beating too fast (tachycardia), beating too slow (bradycardia) or beating irregularly.
When your heart is pumping normally to bring blood to the rest of the body, its electrical system makes sure it contracts in an orderly way. Arrhythmias are caused by problems with the way the heart receives and responds to electrical impulses. This ultimately affects how effectively and efficiently the heart beats. Depending on the severity and symptoms presented, a surgeon may perform certain surgical procedures to help correct or reduce the effects of arrhythmia.
There are two types of Arrhytmia:
Tachycardia, which is defined by a heart rate that’s more than 100 beats per minute, occurs when the electrical signals in the atria are released in an uncontrolled manner, causing a fast heart rhythm. Some symptoms of tachycardia include an uncomfortable heartbeat that causes shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating and chest pain. Tachycardia can be seen in three different forms:
- Atrial Tachycardia – starts in the atria
- Ventricular Tachycardia – starts in ventricles
- Supraventricular Tachycardia – begins above ventricles
Having bradycardia means that your heart beats very slowly, typically less than 60 beats per minute. While in many cases, a slow heart rate is healthy, it can also be a sign of a problem with the heart and its electrical system. Common symptoms of bradycardia are similar to tachycardia and include dizziness, shortness of breath, exhaustion and chest pain.
Non-Surgical Ablation Treatment
During a non-surgical ablation, a catheter is inserted into the part of the heart being affected by the arrhythmia. A machine that is attached to the catheter directs energy to areas of the heart muscle, disconnecting the source of the abnormal heart rhythm.
Surgical Procedures to Correct Arrhythmias
If your heartbeat is too slow or irregular, a surgeon can insert an electronic pacemaker to regulate the rate at which the heart is beating. A permanent pacemaker is inserted through a small incision in the upper chest close to a major vein. A wire attached to the pacemaker is moved through the vein and into the heart. This wire carries signals between the heart and the pacemaker. The pacemaker, with its self-contained battery and computer, is placed in a protective area underneath the skin or under muscle where it delivers an electrical impulse whenever it detects a slowing or irregular heart rhythm.
Similar to a pacemaker, a cardioverter-defibrillator is another device implanted into the chest that monitors heart rate. While pacemakers are used to help a patient with a slow or irregular heartbeat, it can also be used when a heartbeat becomes too fast. The defibrillator senses when the heart rate increases, and sends out electrical signals to bring the heart rate back down into a normal range.
CryoMaze Heart Surgery
CryoMaze surgery is a procedure that may be used for atrial fibrillation when other treatments are ineffective. With this procedure, a surgeon creates electrical barriers in the upper chamber of the heart by applying an Argon powered cold probe. By freezing the tissue to very cold temperatures, electrical activity is permanently blocked. The electrical barriers can be created in 60-90 seconds, minimizing the duration of the procedure. Depending upon the circumstances, a minimally invasive approach can be performed using a 2-inch incision in the right side of the chest. This allows patients to return to regular activities within 3 weeks instead of the 8-10 weeks after a traditional procedure.
Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
If coronary heart disease is the cause of your arrhythmia, your doctor may recommend coronary artery bypass grafting. This surgery uses a grafted vein to form a bypass around a blocked artery to improve blood flow to the heart muscle.