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When Your Heart Rhythm Isn't Normal


Diagnosis continued...

Echocardiogram -- This test uses ultrasound to evaluate your heart muscle and heart valves.

Cardiac catheterization -- Your doctor will insert a long, thin tube, called a catheter, into a blood vessel in your arm or leg. She will guide it to your heart with help from a special X-ray machine. Then she'll inject dye through the catheter to help make X-ray videos of your heart's valves, coronary arteries, and chambers.

Electrophysiology study -- This test records your heart's electrical activities and pathways. It can help find out what's causing heart rhythm problems and find the best treatment for you. During the test, your doctor will safely reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm and then may give you different medications to see which controls it best, or to see what procedure or device you need to treat it.

Head-up tilt table test -- Doctors use this test to find out what's causing fainting spells. It measures the difference in heart rate and blood pressure when you're standing up or lying down. You'll get this test in a lab. You'll lie on a stretcher, tilted at different angles while you're getting an EKG and specialists are checking your blood pressure and oxygen level.


Treatment depends on the type and seriousness of your arrhythmia.

Some people with arrhythmias don't need treatment. Others may need medication, making lifestyle changes, and surgery.

Drugs that treat arrhythmias include:

Antiarrhythmic drugs. These drugs control heart rate and include beta-blockers.

Anticoagulant or antiplatelet therapy. These drugs lower the risk of blood clots and stroke. These include warfarin (a blood thinner) or aspirin. Other blood thinners called Pradaxa (dabigatran), Eliquis, and Xarelto (rivaroxaban) have been approved to prevent stroke in people with atrial fibrillation.  

Everyone is different. Finding the medicine and dose that works best for you may take some time.

  • If you notice that your arrhythmia happens more often with certain activities, don't do those things.
  • If you smoke, stop.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.
  • Limit or stop using caffeine.
  • Don't use cough and cold medications that have stimulants. Read the label and ask your doctor or pharmacist what medication would be best for you.

What Is Electrical Cardioversion?

If drugs can't control a persistent irregular heart rhythm (such as atrial fibrillation), you might need cardioversion. For this, doctors, give you a short-acting anesthesia, then deliver an electrical shock to your chest wall to allow the normal rhythm to restart.

What Is a Pacemaker?

This device sends small electrical impulses to the heart muscle to keep a safe heart rate. The pacemaker has a pulse generator (which houses the battery and a tiny computer) and wires that send impulses from the pulse generator to the heart muscle.

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