How To Slow Down a Fast Beating Heart

Posted on : 02-22-2011 | By : tsimons | In : Events, Heart Health, News


It’s astonishing to think that over 3 million people in the U.S. have a fast beating heart.  And that by 2050, that number will double.

If you are over the age of 40, you have a one in four chance that this will happen to you.  It’s called A-Fib (Atrial Flutter or Atrial Fibrillation) and can be treated at Silver Cross Hospital using a relatively new technique called ablation therapy!

What Is Atrial Flutter/Atrial Fibrillation? 

Electrical system problems of the heart may make the atria of the heart beat faster than normal. “If the atria beats quickly, but still evenly, it is called atrial flutter. If the atria beats very quickly and unevenly, it is called atrial fibrillation,” said Sunil Shroff, M.D., cardiologist at Silver Cross Hospital who specializes in electrophysiology.

With atrial fibrillation, cells in the atria (upper chambers of the heart) send extra electrical signals to the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart). These extra signals make the atria beat very quickly and unevenly. As a result, the atria beat so fast and unevenly that they may quiver instead of contracting fully for each heartbeat. “If the atria don’t contract, they don’t move enough blood into the ventricles. This is what leads to symptoms such as dizziness and weakness,” said Dr. Shroff.  “So blood that isn’t kept moving can pool and form clots in the atria.  These clots can move into other parts of the body and cause serious problems, such as a stroke.”  Symptoms of Atrial Fibrillation are palpitations (a fluttering, fast heartbeat), weakness or tiredness, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, dizziness or lightheadedness, or fainting spells.

What are the Causes of A-Fib?

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Valvular heart disease- especially mitral stenois and mitral insufficiency
  • Open heart surgery
  • Heavy alcohol use or binge drinking
  • Extreme emotional or physical stress such as severe infections, severe pain, and illegal drug use.
  • Antihistamines, bronchial inhalants, local anesthetics, tobacco use, caffeine (in coffee, tea, sodas) and chocolate (in large amounts)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Thyroid problems
  • Lung disease

Can A-Fib Be Treated?

Currently only selected facilities nationwide offer ablation treatment for Atrial Fibrillation, leaving drug treatment as the only alternative for patients without access to ablation therapy. Many medications have a low success rate and are associated with multiple side-effects. Fortunately for local residents, Silver Cross Hospital offers Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Therapy.  In fact, Silver Cross is the only area hospital that offers such therapy. Cardiologists with specialized training in electrophysiology (Electrophysiologists) on staff at Silver Cross are at the forefront of treating patients with abnormal heart rhythms, including implantable cardiac defibrillators, and resynchronization therapy, as well as ablation for atrial fibrillation and other abnormal heart rhythms called supraventricular and ventricular tachycardia.

“During Atrial Fibrillation Ablation Therapy, we insert electrode heart catheters through the patient’s groin and advance them into the heart under X-ray guidance,” said Dr. Shroff. “We then guide the ablation catheter to tissue surrounding the pulmonary veins within the left atrium, and to other areas that start and maintain abnormal heart rhythms.” Real time continuous imaging of the heart and catheters is achieved by placing an ultrasound probe into the heart to monitor and prevent overheating from radiofrequency ablation, which may lead to complications.

“We can literally visualize each individual’s specific anatomy from the inside, enabling accurate catheter navigation and precision ablation point delivery for treating a variety of complex cardiac arrhythmias,” said Dr. Shroff. “This is a major improvement in cardiac care.” 

How Can I Learn More?

Join Dr. Sunil Shroff, electrophysiologist, Monday, Feb. 28 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the Silver Cross Hospital Conference Center.  He will discuss symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of atrial fibrillation.  Register to attend online or call 1-888-660-HEAL (4325).

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