Can My Arrhythmia Ever Be Cured?

Author : Amelia Grant | Published On : 13 May 2024

Arrhythmias can be terrifying. Your heart is one of your body's most essential organs, so when it begins to malfunction, it creates anxiety.

While not all arrhythmias are curable, many are. Modern heart medicine has advanced significantly since its inception, and numerous solutions are available to help you live a longer, happier, and healthier life.

What is arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is a disturbance in the rhythm of your heartbeat. Sometimes the beat is too fast, and sometimes it is too slow. The problem is sometimes an incorrect speed, but rather an irregular beat. Atrial fibrillation, the most prevalent type of arrhythmia, results in an irregular and rapid heartbeat. When the heart races, slows down, skips beats, or attempts to win many times, it puts additional strain on the heart and can lead to significant problems.

An EKG or wearable heart monitor can identify an arrhythmia, define its nature, and plan the next steps. Depending on the kind and severity of the arrhythmia, numerous treatment options, including a cure, are available.

What causes arrhythmias?

Pre-existing diseases such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, cardiac failure, or hypertension can all contribute to arrhythmias. Arrhythmias are also linked to the normal aging of the heart and its electrical system. They can be exacerbated by lifestyle choices such as smoking, binge drinking, recreational drug use, obesity, or stress. There are numerous causes, so seeking an appropriate diagnosis by consulting an arrhythmia specialist is critical.

What are the symptoms of an arrhythmia?

The symptoms depend on the type of arrhythmia. If your heart rate is too slow, you may feel weary, dizzy, or faint. If your heart rate is excessively high, it may feel like racing or hammering in your chest. Some patients can become desensitized to aberrant cardiac rhythms. Fatigue and poor exercise tolerance are common signs of arrhythmias. So what we observe with arrhythmias ranges from feeling nothing to exhaustion, shortness of breath, heart hammering, and fainting.

Arrhythmia treatments

Some arrhythmias can be addressed in the moment with a vagal maneuver. This maneuver entails performing a specific motion, such as coughing or submerging your face in freezing water. This activates the vagus nerves that govern the heartbeat, restoring the heart rhythm to normal norms.

Certain arrhythmias can also be treated with drugs, such as blood thinners or heart rate control medications. Blood thinners do not treat the arrhythmia but rather prevent clots from developing, which could lead to a stroke.

Pacemakers and implanted cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), which are surgically implanted and activate when the heartbeat falls outside of normal ranges, may also be considered.

Cardioversion treatment with medicine or electroshock may also be an option. This attempts to normalize the heart's electrical impulses and restore it to normal rhythm.

Cardiac ablation

Arrhythmias can also be treated with ablation. Catheter ablation is the least intrusive first choice, with tiny wires placed through the groin to reach the heart and eliminate aberrant heart tissue causing the arrhythmia.

When catheter ablation is not possible or successful, your doctor may propose one of two surgical ablation techniques: convergent (hybrid) ablation or Cox Maze IV ablation. 

Convergent ablation combines two operations in one surgery, targeting both the outside and inside of the heart. Heat destroys a little portion of heart tissue, restoring the heart's original beat pattern. Convergent ablation surgery is minimally invasive, requiring only minor incisions in the upper belly, lower chest, and groin.

A Cox Maze IV ablation requires open-heart surgery and is frequently coupled with other procedures. Due to its invasive nature, it is a last resort, yet it has a high success rate. It is named for the procedure's creator, Dr. James Cox, and the maze-like arrangement of incisions employed. These incisions cut through the wall of the heart's atrium, and the scars that form act as barriers, preventing aberrant electrical signals from being sent.

While drugs are used to treat irregular cardiac rhythms, ablation operations can eliminate some types of arrhythmia. Most people with a cardiac rhythm abnormality can resume normal activity levels after treatment.