Skip to Content

Cardiac Arrhythmias

The cardiologists at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute use the latest techniques and technology to diagnose and treat heart rhythm disorders called cardiac arrhythmias.

Why choose UPMC in Central Pa. for cardiac arrhythmia treatment?

Our experts use leading-edge technology and techniques to diagnose and treat hundreds of cases of cardiac arrhythmias each year. We offer a full range of tests and treatments for cardiac arrhythmias, including:

Diagnostic Tests

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). This noninvasive test measures the electrical activity in your heart.
  • Holter monitor. This wearable ECG device records your heart's activity throughout the day.
  • Event recorder.This portable device is similar to a Holter monitor however, it only records when you are having symptoms.
  • Echocardiogram. This noninvasive test uses sound waves to create images of your heart.
  • Electrophysiology (EP) study. This test uses a special catheter that is threaded through your blood vessels and into your heart to map electrical impulses.


  • Medications can be used to control your heart rhythm and prevent blood clots that can lead to a stroke.
  • If your doctor prescribes blood thinners for you, UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute offers a telephone-based anticoagulation clinic (PDF) to help regulate your blood-thinner dosage.

Nonsurgical Procedures

  • Cardioversion. This procedure uses special paddles or patches attached to your chest to deliver a shock that can restore your normal heart rhythm.

Minimally Invasive Procedures

  • Catheter ablation. During catheter ablation, a special catheter is threaded through your blood vessels to your heart, where it uses radiofrequency or cryo-energy to create a small electrical block along the pathway that is causing your heart to beat abnormally.
  • Left atrial appendage occlusion procedure/Watchman procedure. The left atrial appendage occlusion/Watchman procedure reduces stroke risk in A-fib patients by inserting a small device that prevents blood clots from leaving an area in the heart where they commonly form.

Hybrid Procedures

  • Hybrid ablation. This procedure uses surgical and catheter-based techniques to treat A-fib by "disconnecting" the source of your abnormal heart rhythm.

Surgical Procedures

  • Cardiac rhythm management devices. A pacemaker or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) is surgically placed under your skin to help control your heart rhythm.
  • MAZE procedures. Typically used to treat A-fib, MAZE procedures are minimally invasive and use tiny incisions in your heart to block the pathway that is causing your heart to beat abnormally.
  • Surgical left atrial appendage ligation (LAL). LAL reduces stroke risk in A-fib patients by sealing off an area in the heart where blood clots commonly form.

What are cardiac arrhythmias?

Cardiac arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms, are caused by changes in the electrical impulses that originate in and are transmitted through your heart. These abnormal rhythms can cause your heart to beat irregularly, too quickly (called tachycardia), or too slowly (called bradycardia).

Atrial fibrillation (A-fib) is the most common type of cardiac arrhythmia and affects nearly 5 million Americans and nearly 10 percent of Americans over the age of 75. Other cardiac arrhythmias include:

  • Atrial flutter
  • Supraventricular tachycardia, including Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome
  • Ventricular tachycardia
  • Ventricular fibrillation
  • Long QT syndrome
  • Sick sinus syndrome
  • Conduction block
  • Premature heartbeats

Some arrhythmias can be harmless, but others can be very serious — and even deadly. Arrhythmias also increase your risk of developing heart failure (when your heart cannot pump enough blood for your body) and blood clots that can lead to a stroke.

What are the symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia?

In a majority of patients, cardiac arrhythmias cause noticeable symptoms. However, some people with cardiac arrhythmias may not have pronounced symptoms. Symptoms of cardiac arrhythmia may include:

  • Pounding chest (palpitations)
  • Skipped heartbeats
  • Chest pain
  • Sweating
  • Fainting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness

Who is at risk for cardiac arrhythmias?

Cardiac arrhythmias can occur in people who have an otherwise normal heart, but they also can occur along with other heart conditions, such as congestive heart failure or coronary artery disease. Untreated high blood pressure (hypertension), sleep apnea, and thyroid disorders also increase your risk.

Certain over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs, as well as excessive alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and illegal drugs also can lead to the development of cardiac arrhythmias.

How can I prevent cardiac arrhythmias?

Preventing heart disease and chronic conditions can reduce the risk that you will develop a cardiac arrhythmia. Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains also can help lower your risk. You also should control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, avoid smoking, and limit alcoholic beverages.

Need more information?

Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery Practices
Cumberland/Dauphin/Franklin/Perry/Lebanon Counties: 717-731-0101
Pediatric : 717-761-0200
Hanover: 717-637-1738
York: 717-849-5576
Lancaster/Lititz: 717-299-5000
Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery: 717-231-8555

Request Information.

Connect with the UPMC Central PA Portal app 24/7

The UPMC Central PA Portal provides patients with convenient and secure access to their health information right at their fingertips. View test results. Get virtual care. Message your care team. Schedule and manage appointments. And much more.

Log-In or Sign Up Today

Contact UPMC

When it comes to health care for you and your family, UPMC is here. It's easy to find the right doctor, health screenings, programs, classes, and more.

Contact UPMC in central Pa.