The Harmony Heart Group is devoted to the care of patients with heart rhythm disorders (cardiac arrhythmias). Dr. Brian Blatt is our expert cardiac electrophysiologist. He has over 20 years of interventional cardiac electrophysiology experience in treating patients with irregular heartbeats and symptoms suspected to be due to cardiac arrhythmias. Young or old, our patients vary from those bothered by occasional irregular heartbeats to those who have been resuscitated from cardiac arrest.
The American Heart Association describes cardiac electrophysiology as those services testing the electrical activity of your heart to find where an arrhythmia is coming from. In a normal heart, electricity flows through the heart and produces a consistent regular beating pattern. When the electrical impulses that coordinate your heartbeats don’t work properly, your heart will beat in an irregular rhythm (and possibly too fast or too slow). Irregular heartbeats can cause a range of problems from mild inconvenience to life-threatening events.
What Causes Irregular Heartbeats?
Irregular heartbeats can be caused by issues directly related to your heart or many that are not heart- related. Sometimes the causes remain unknown. These causes can include but are not limited to:
- Coronary artery disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Thyroid disease
- High blood pressure
- Lifestyle choices and stress
Symptoms of Irregular Heartbeats
While irregular heart rhythms are sometimes asymptomatic, many may have symptoms that can range from asymptomatic to completely disabling. A few of the more common symptoms of an arrhythmia are:
- Rapid heartbeat or palpitations (fluttering sensation in the chest)
- Fatigue or weakness
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain/discomfort
Cardiac Electrophysiology Services
At Harmony Heart Group, we will discuss your specific heart rhythm disorder. We follow the recommendations of the Heart Rhythm Society. We agree that the best option is the least invasive treatment available that can safely and effectively manage your heart rhythm disorder. Treatment options can be seen as a ladder approach. We like to think of the available options as rungs on a ladder. The first rung is the most conservative noninvasive therapy available and the highest rung is the most aggressive invasive option. The rungs in the middle are considered intermediate.
These options or “rungs on the ladder” include:
Lifestyle changes: Typically, a heart-healthy lifestyle can improve symptoms associated with heart rhythm disorders. This could include: improved sleep duration, improved sleep quality, reduced stress, reduced caffeine intake, improved heart-healthy diet, cessation of alcohol, cessation of smoking, weight management and routine aerobic exercise.
Medications: Many heart rhythm disorders can be managed with medications. Medications can be subdivided into drug classes:
- heart rate drugs include beta blockers and calcium blockers which may slow the heart and prevent it from racing as it does with atrial fibrillation or supraventricular tachycardia(SVT)
- rhythm-specific medications include medications that actually manage rhythms such as atrial fibrillation by preventing them
- blood thinners including Aspirin, Coumadin (warfarin) and the newer blood thinners currently advertised on television (Eliquis, Pradaxa, Xarelto, etc.).
Monitoring devices: We have numerous monitoring devices available to you at Harmony Heart Group. There are wearable monitors that stay on for 24-48 hours and others up to 30 days. We have monitor patches available as well. They are less cumbersome than the monitors that have multiple lead wires attached to the skin.
Currently, there are even tiny, implantable monitors that have batteries lasting up to 3 years. These devices are available to aid in the diagnostic aspect of your case and to aid in management as well. Imagine the capability of having an implantable monitor that can automatically record and download details of your rhythm, including the number, duration and speed of your individual events. This data is automatically sent to the doctor’s office for evaluation and management.
Cardioversion: Many heart rhythm disorders can be managed effectively with an outpatient “shock” procedure. This procedure is performed in a hospital setting with the aid of anesthesia to make it painless and comfortable. It remains an effective method to restore a normal heart rhythm for many disorders. Following cardioversion, you will have a discussion with your doctor regarding long-term management of the rhythm.
Pacemakers: Many patients require a mechanical, surgically implanted device to improve the heart rate if the condition is a slow heart rate with symptoms of feeling poorly.
Defibrillators (ICDs): Some patients may even require a mechanical, surgically implanted device to provide lifesaving shocks if the heart rhythm is life threatening. If you have a history of heart disease with weakened heart function, you may be offered an implantable defibrillator as a lifesaving therapy. This will be discussed in detail with your Harmony Heart cardiologist.
Heart Failure: At Harmony Heart, if you are a patient with a history of congestive heart failure, we will discuss the possibility of implanting an available cardiac resynchronization device called a CRT implant. These devices improve the efficiency of your heart contractions by causing your heart to pump in a more synchronized fashion.
Catheter ablation: At Harmony Heart, we offer in-hospital procedures that are designed to invasively target many heart rhythms, including supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), atrial flutter, normal heart ventricular tachycardia (VT) and atrial fibrillation. The catheters that we use are usually introduced into the body through a vein in the leg/groin area. Ask your Harmony Heart cardiologist if catheter-based rhythm ablation is right for you.
At Harmony Heart Group, we are happy to discuss your heart rhythm disorder. Our approach is customized to your specific condition with the goal of using the least invasive option that provides the most effective management solution.