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:
- Minimize stroke risk
- Control heart rate
- Restore normal heart rhythm
Heart arrhythmia medications
To slow the heart rate:
To maintain a regular heart rhythm:
To prevent clot formation and help reduce the risk of stroke:
- Blood thinners such as:
- Warfarin (Coumadin®)
Procedures for treating arrhythmia
- Cardioversion — delivers an electrical shock to “reset” the heart by converting an irregular or fast heart rhythm to a normal heart rhythm.
- Ablation therapy — a minimally invasive procedure to remove or destroy (ablate) the abnormal tissue responsible for the arrhythmia.
During ablation therapy, we position a thin wire (catheter) inside your heart near the pulmonary veins.
Types of ablation therapy for arrhythmias
- Radio-frequency ablation uses radio energy to apply heat to the tip of the catheter to cauterize the heart tissue.
- Cryoablation uses extreme cold to freeze and scar the heart tissue.
Our program leaders are experts at ablation techniques and have authored book chapters and research publications on the subject.
Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy (SBRT) for Arrhythmias of the Heart's Lower Chambers
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.
Is SBRT an option for me?
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.
Exploring new arrhythmia treatments
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.