Bradycardia (Low Heart Rate)

Doctors define bradycardia as an abnormally low heart rate of less than 60 beats per minute.

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program treats bradycardia and other heart arrhythmias and disorders associated with a high risk of sudden death.

Contact the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute

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What Is Bradycardia?

A normal heart rate in adults is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Some people who have a slow heartbeat are completely healthy, such as athletes whose exercise regimen improves their heart's ability to pump blood efficiently.

In people with bradycardia, however, the heart beats so slowly — less than 60 beats per minute — that the body does not get enough blood and oxygen to function properly.

Causes of bradycardia

Bradycardia causes may include:

  • Aging
  • Medications
  • An existing heart condition

Bradycardia complications

In serious cases, bradycardia can cause complications such as:

  • Fainting
  • Chest pan
  • Cardiac arrest

Why choose UPMC's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program for bradycardia care?

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 diagnostic tests and treatment options for bradycardia.

What distinguishes our electrophysiology program?

  • Our subspecialty centers — for evaluating and managing bradycardia, as well as infected implanted pacemakers and other heart rhythm devices.
  • Our program leaders — pioneers of novel ablation procedures for restoring normal heart rhythm.

Bradycardia Symptoms and Diagnosis

Bradycardia symptoms

In addition to an abnormally slow heartbeat (less than 60 beats per minute), symptoms of bradycardia may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath

Diagnosing bradycardia

During your physical exam, your doctor at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program will:

  • Ask about your symptoms and when they started.
  • Discuss your medical history.
  • Listen to your heart with a stethoscope.

Following your exam, your doctor may order additional tests and procedures to confirm a diagnosis of bradycardia.

These may include:

  • An electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • An echocardiogram
  • A holter monitor
  • An exercise stress test
  • A tilt table test
  • Invasive electrophysiology tests
  • Blood tests to screen for:
    • An infection
    • Hypothyroidism
    • An electrolyte imbalance

Testing results

Your doctor or nurse will tell you when to expect your test results and will call you when they're available.

Bradycardia Treatment

Bradycardia treatment depends on your test results.

Your doctor at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute's Cardiac Electrophysiology Program will go over your test results and discuss treatment options.

Treatment may not be required or we may monitor your heart rhythm periodically if test results show the following

  • No underlying heart disease is detected
  • Heart's response to exercise is normal
  • No symptoms of low cardiac output

If Bradycardia is caused by an underlying disorder, such as hypothyroidism or obstructive sleep apnea, we may treat the underlying disorder, which may correct abnormal heart rhythm.

If Bradycardia caused by medicine, we may prescribe a lower dose or another medicine.

If Bradycardia is caused by a problem with your heart's conduction system, we may implant a pacemaker that produces electrical impulses, when needed, to steady heart rate.

Bradycardia Educational Materials

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers educational information and videos about bradycardia tests and treatments.

Many people find these resources helpful in answering their questions about their condition and preparing them for their procedure or diagnostic test.

From the American Heart Association

From our Health Library at