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What to expect if you're diagnosed with arrhythmia

In most cases, heart rhythms can be treated and controlled. If you are diagnosed with arrhythmias, your doctor will explain your treatment options which may include medication, medical procedures, surgery, or a combination of those options.

Medications that may be prescribed include:

  • Antiarrhythmics to restore and/or maintain a normal heart rhythm
  • Beta blockers to control a heart rate
  • Calcium channel blockers to treat atrial fibrillation
  • Anticoagulants, blood thinners to prevent some potential complications of a-fib
  • Medications to manage an underlying condition that is causing your arrhythmias

Medical procedures/treatments:

Cardioversion

  • Even though you are taking medication, you may still go into a-fib from time to time. Your doctor may offer cardioversion as one treatment option. Cardioversion is a procedure in which an electrical current, or shock, is given to the heart muscle to restore the normal rhythm. It sounds scary, but it is a simple, same-day procedure.

Catheter ablation (radio-frequency ablation or cryoablation)

  • Catheter ablation is a non-surgical procedure that can be used when medication is not working to control the heart rhythm. Catheter ablation is done in an electrophysiology lab in the hospital by a team of highly skilled nurses and technicians who work alongside the electrophysiologist (doctor who specializes in treating heart rhythm conditions).  Radiofrequency energy (heat) or cyroablation (very cold temperatures) is used to destroy a small area of the heart tissue causing irregular heartbeats and restoring a regular heart rhythm. The goal of the procedure is to cure the atrial fibrillation or to lessen the episodes of atrial fibrillation by controlling one’s symptoms.

Pacemaker

  • A pacemaker is appropriate for patients with heart problems that cause their heart to beat too slowly.   It is a small, battery-operated device that is implanted under the skin. This device senses when your heart is beating too slowly and it will send a signal to your heart that makes your heart beat at the correct pace. It does not treat AFib, but may help in the treatment of abnormal heart rates during AFib.
  • Beaumont offers patients the world's smallest leadless pacemaker, in addition to other pacemakers with and without leads. Advanced pacemaker implantation including BiVP (biventricular pacing) and HBP (direct HIS bundle pacing) are techniques to resynchronize the heart. It is up to the discretion of your physician which is best for you.

Implantable cardioverter defibrillators

  • An implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is a device that detects any life-threatening, rapid heartbeat. If it occurs, the ICD quickly sends an electrical shock to the heart and the rhythm back to normal.

Laser lead extractions

  • Beaumont is one of few sites in the area that do laser lead extractions due to the challenges and technical challenges associated with extractions. It continues to be a major referral center for laser lead extractions. 
  • The plan for the implantation of a permanent pacemaker of implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD) is to remain in the body for the remainder of a patient's life. However, there can be situations like infection, lead failure, lead positioning or newer technologies that require leads to be removed. 
  • The additional scar tissue that results from the length of time the device remains inside the body, makes removal of leads or device very difficult. During the procedure, a laser device will break up any scar tissue built up around the leads so they can be removed more easily and much safer.

Left atrial appendage closure

  • Left atrial appendage closure, WATCHMAN, is very effective in patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation as an alternative to long-term blood thinning medication.
  • Beaumont is the first hospital in the Midwest and in Michigan to implant the commercially approved WATCHMAN left atrial appendage (LAA) closure device. The WATCHMAN device is a first-of-its-kind, proven alternative to commonly-used blood thinner warfarin to prevent stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation or an abnormal heart beat. 

Pulmonary vein isolation

  • Patients who have paroxysmal atrial fibrillation are most commonly treated with catheter-based ablation with pulmonary vein isolation. Here, the electrophysiologist isolates areas in the veins that most commonly trigger atrial fibrillation to stop the extra signals.

Surgery

MAZE procedure

  • MAZE is a surgical treatment for a-fib that is used to electrically isolate the pulmonary veins from the rest of the atrium; MAZE procedure is an option if atrial fibrillation cannot be treated with medication or other nonsurgical approaches.