Arrhythmia is a heart rhythm problem caused by a glitch in the electrical impulses to the heart. It can cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, a fast or slow heartbeat, shortness of breath, and chest pain.
Heart arrhythmia treatments at UPMC's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program include drugs, cardioversion, and minimally invasive ablation therapy.
To request an appointment, contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute:
During arrhythmia, the heart either beats:
Almost everyone experiences an occasional skipped heart beat, fluttering, or racing heart beat. While most events are harmless, some people have arrhythmias that are bothersome and sometimes dangerous.
The UPMC Cardiac Electrophysiology Program is the largest in western Pennsylvania and one of the largest in the United States.
We offer a full range of treatments for the most therapy-resistant cases of cardiac arrhythmias, including:
Some cardiac arrhythmias occur without symptoms.
Others may cause noticeable symptoms, such as:
At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute, your initial evaluation for arrhythmia includes:
In particular, the doctor will listen to your heart with a stethoscope.
Following your exam, your doctor may order additional tests to help confirm an arrhythmia diagnosis.
These tests may include:
If your doctor detects an arrhythmia, he or she will work with you to determine the best cardiac arrhythmia treatment.
Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.
Some less serious types of arrhythmia do not require treatment, but you should have regular checkups.
If you do require treatment, most often your doctor will prescribe heart arrhythmia medications to control your irregular heartbeat.
At the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program, the goals of arrhythmia treatment are to:
To slow the heart rate:
To maintain a regular heart rhythm:
To prevent clot formation and help reduce the risk of stroke:
During ablation therapy, we position a thin wire (catheter) inside your heart near the pulmonary veins.
Types of ablation therapy for arrhythmias
Our program leaders are experts at ablation techniques and have authored book chapters and research publications on the subject.
SBRT is an experimental treatment for refractory ventricular tachycardia (V-tach), an abnormally rapid heart rate in the heart's lower chambers.
Doctors use SBRT if standard treatments like medications and catheter ablation fail to control your V-tach.
SBRT involves the delivery of focused, single dose of radiation to a small area of the heart causing heart rhythm abnormality. Doctors use scans to find the area of the heart causing the arrhythmia and where to target treatment.
SBRT can treat a deeper area of the heart than catheter ablation.
Potential risks from SBRT include damage or scarring to tissue around the heart. Doctors will use imaging scans and technology to reduce the risk as much as possible.
In most cases, this noninvasive treatment is completed under an hour, and you can go home the same day. You will have frequent, thorough follow-up visits to check for efficacy and long-term potential side effects.
Currently, SBRT is only an option for people with refractory V-tach who have tried other treatments without success.
Early data suggest SBRT can be successful when other treatments fail in people with V-tach. Since we’re still studying SBRT, more data is needed to confirm long term safety and efficacy.
Our doctors are performing research into the underlying causes of heart arrhythmias and are using their discoveries to develop improved methods for diagnosing and treating them.
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers educational information and videos about arrhythmias and other heart and vascular diseases and treatments.
Many people find these resources helpful in answering their questions about their condition and preparing them for their procedure or diagnostic test.
The links below will open a new browser window.