Skip to content

Sick Sinus Syndrome

Font Size

Topic Overview

Sick sinus syndrome is the name given to a group of arrhythmias that occur because the normal pacemaker of the heart (the sinus node) does not work properly. Sick sinus syndrome is also called sinus node dysfunction.

For more information on other types of sinus node problems, see Types of Bradycardia.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

My WebMD: In My 20s With a Pacemaker

"Does your bra really go up that high?" the TSA officer asked, running her hands along my chest. My boyfriend, Adam, and I were headed for a romantic getaway, and being held at airport security wasn't on our itinerary. "I have a pacemaker.  That's a scar, not my bra," I said. "You're too young for that," she said. While I'm not the only 26-year-old with a pacemaker, I'm the only one most security officers have seen. Of the pacemakers installed yearly, 84% are for people older than age 65. Only 6%...

Read the My WebMD: In My 20s With a Pacemaker article > >

What causes it?

Sick sinus syndrome can occur for various reasons. It most commonly results from the effect of age on the sinus node. As we get older, scarring of the sinus node can occur and, in some people, it can be so severe that it causes this syndrome.

What happens?

Various irregular heart rates (arrhythmias) or combinations of arrhythmias can occur in this condition. People with this syndrome can have slow arrhythmias or a combination of fast and slow arrhythmias. These include:

  • Periods of time when the sinus node does not fire at all (sinus pauses) and other areas of the heart take over and cause the heart to beat.
  • Prolonged periods of time when the heart rate is spontaneously very slow and does not increase as it should with activity (persistent sinus bradycardia).
  • Periods of fast arrhythmias (supraventricular tachycardias), especially atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter, alternating with periods of very slow heart rates ("tachy-brady" syndrome).

Treatment of sick sinus syndrome depends on the type of rhythm problem. Treatment typically is a pacemaker, and sometimes medicines is used too.

Tachy-brady syndrome

In tachy-brady syndrome, also called tachycardia-bradycardia syndrome, the heart sometimes beats too quickly (tachy) and sometimes beats too slowly (brady). This abnormal heart rhythm problem is often seen in people who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation. It can occur when the heart's natural pacemaker is damaged.

  • Risk of complications? Yes. You may have symptoms such as palpitations and lightheadedness. You might pass out. You might have a higher risk of stroke.
  • Treatment. Treatment may include a pacemaker to prevent the heart from beating too slow. Medicines might be used to prevent the heart from beating too fast. Blood-thinning medicines are used to help prevent a stroke.
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

sore foot
3 warning signs.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
psoriasis
What it looks like.
checking blood sugar
Symptoms and treatment.
man behind computer screen
10 possible causes.
Woman with itchy watery eyes
Common triggers.
man screaming
Making sense of symptoms.
human liver
What puts you at risk?
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.
two male hands
Understanding RA.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.