Cardiac arrhythmia treatment in Ventura and Los Angeles Counties
An arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, can be a scary occurrence. Many of us experience a skipped heartbeat every so often, and they are usually harmless. Sometimes, though, a rapid, slow or irregular heartbeat can be the sign of something more serious.
At Los Robles Health System, our electrophysiologists are trained to diagnose and treat heart arrhythmias, using the latest technology to correct them.
To make an appointment or for more information, call our Consult-A-Nurse® line at (877) 888-5746.
Arrhythmia causes and symptoms
A sequence of electrical impulses control how the heart pumps blood. If these electrical impulses misfire, the heart may beat too fast, too slowly, or irregularly. Many conditions may cause an arrhythmia, including:
- Blocked coronary arteries
- Changes to the heart's structure
- Drug abuse
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Medications and supplements
- Scarring of the heart muscle due to a previous heart attack
- Sleep apnea
- Stress or anxiety
- Thyroid problems
- Too much alcohol or caffeine
If you have an irregular heartbeat, you may have a wide range of symptoms that may include;
- Chest pain or pressure
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near-fainting spells
- Fluttering or pounding in the chest
- Shortness of breath
- Slow or rapid heartbeat
In rare cases, arrhythmias can cause you to collapse and go into cardiac arrest, so it's important to get a checkup if you're experiencing any of these symptoms.
Heart arrhythmia imaging and diagnostic tools
As part of our cardiac care, our surgeons use several different tests to diagnose an arrhythmia. They can use an electrocardiogram (EKG) or a Holter monitor to record the electrical signals of the heart, and can also order an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart. In addition to those tests, we also use the following technology:
3D mapping of the heart
Doctors create 3D maps of the heart and its chambers in real time during procedures to help visualize the source and path of the arrhythmia. We have several kinds of mapping systems that help our team see the structures of the heart so we can position the catheters within 1 millimeter of the problem cells.
Improved visualization helps reduce X-ray exposure and significantly decreases the length of the procedure.
3D intracardiac and transesophageal echocardiography (ICE and TEE)
An ICE catheter is a small ultrasound device placed within the heart. ICE provides clear information about the structure of the heart as well as the position of the catheter.
With the high-resolution pictures that ICE provides, the electrophysiologist can safely and efficiently explore the areas between atrial chambers. By minimizing the potential for complications, they can focus on the task of ridding the heart of the problem cells.
A TEE works by attaching the ultrasound device to a thin tube that goes into the esophagus. The esophagus is close to the upper chambers of the heart, so doctors can get clear images of those structures using this technique.
Implantable loop recorders
A loop recorder is a small device that is implanted or injected below the skin of the patient’s chest. Measuring no larger than a pack of gum, this powerful device can record any arrhythmias for up to three years.
Heart arrhythmia treatments
Depending on the type of arrhythmia, electrophysiologists have several devices and treatments to correct any abnormal rhythms.
An arrhythmia is often caused by cells in the heart that misfire or change the normal electrical signal. Doctors may recommend an ablation to kill those cells that are causing the abnormal rhythm, especially when medication fails to control it.
A catheter ablation uses a series of thin, flexible wires that are inserted through an artery or vein and guided to the heart. Once the electrophysiologist has made sure the heart is beating abnormally, they create a 3D map showing the abnormal rhythm's type and location.
Using the map as a guide, the electrophysiologist places the catheter in the correct area and destroys the problem cells with a very small and focused radiofrequency wave. They will then try to induce the abnormal rhythm to make sure that the problem cells are no longer causing a problem.
Cryoballoon catheter ablation, or cryoablation is an alternative to traditional radiofrequency energy ablation. It uses extreme cold to freeze the heart cells, which means shorter procedure times and less radiation exposure.
A pacemaker is a device that regulates the beating of the heart by delivering an electrical impulse through electrodes connected to the heart muscle. This device will help pace the heart rate when it senses your heart is too slow (bradycardia), and it will take over from the heart's natural pacemaker when it is functioning improperly.
Patients implanted with a pacemaker can expect a quick recovery as well as a fast return to their previous activity level.
Implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICD)
The ICD device monitors the heart for abnormal heartbeats that may be dangerous and put the patient at risk for sudden cardiac death.
The ICD can deliver an internal shock directly into the heart muscle when it senses that the heart is in abnormal rhythms. This electric shock will help convert the heart rhythm back to normal. The ICD can also function as a pacemaker if necessary.
Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT)
CRT devices are either pacemakers or defibrillators with an extra lead that can pace both ventricles of the heart. This device can be programmed to help the ventricles of the heart to synchronize and improve cardiac function.
CRTs have been shown to reduce mortality and improve the quality of life in patients with congestive heart failure.