Cardiac arrhythmia, also known as cardiac dysrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, is a group of conditions in which the heartbeat is irregular, too fast, or too slow. A heart rate that is too fast – above 100 beats per minute in adults – is called tachycardia and a heart rate that is too slow – below 60 beats per minute – is called bradycardia. Many types of arrhythmia have no symptoms. When symptoms are present these may include palpitations or feeling a pause between heartbeats. More seriously there may be lightheadedness, passing out, shortness of breath, or chest pain. While most types of arrhythmia are not serious, some predispose a person to complications such as stroke or heart failure.Others may result in cardiac arrest. There are four main types of arrhythmia: extra beats, supraventricular tachycardias, ventricular arrhythmias, and bradyarrhythmias. Extra beats include premature atrial contractions and premature ventricular contractions. Supraventricular tachycardias include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia. Ventricular arrhythmias include ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia. Arrhythmias are due to problems with the electrical conduction system of the heart. Arrhythmias may occur in children; however, the normal range for the heart rate is different and depends on age. A number of tests can help with diagnosis including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and Holter monitor. Most arrhythmias can be effectively treated. Treatments may include medications, medical procedures such as a pacemaker, and surgery. Medications for a fast heart rate may include beta blockers or agents that attempt to restore a normal heart rhythm such as procainamide. This later group may have more significant side effects especially if taken for a long period of time. Pacemakers are often used for slow heart rates. Those with an irregular heartbeat are often treated with blood thinners to reduce the risk of complications. Those who have severe symptoms from an arrhythmia may receive urgent treatment with a jolt of electricity in the form of cardioversion or defibrillation. Arrhythmia affects millions of people. In Europe and North America, as of 2014, atrial fibrillation affects about 2% to 3% of the population. Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter resulted in 112,000 deaths in 2013, up from 29,000 in 1990. Sudden cardiac death is the cause of about half of deaths due to cardiovascular disease or about 15% of all deaths globally. About 80% of sudden cardiac death is the result of ventricular arrhythmias. Arrhythmias may occur at any age but are more common among older people.

Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome (SADS), is a term used as part of sudden unexpected death syndrome to describe sudden death due to cardiac arrest brought on by an arrhythmia in the presence or absence of any structural heart disease on autopsy. The most common cause of sudden death in the US is coronary artery disease specifically because of poor oxygenation of the heart muscle, that is myocardial ischemia or a heart attack Approximately 180,000 to 250,000 people die suddenly of this cause every year in the US. SADS may occur from other causes. There are many inherited conditions and heart diseases that can affect young people which can subsequently cause sudden death without advance symptoms. Causes of SADS in young people include viral myocarditis, long QT syndrome, Brugada syndrome, Catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia. The term cardiac arrhythmia covers a very large number of very different conditions. The most common symptom of an arrhythmia is an awareness of an abnormal heartbeat, called palpitations. These may be infrequent, frequent, or continuous. Some of these arrhythmias are harmless (though distracting for patients) but some of them predispose to adverse outcomes. Some arrhythmias do not cause symptoms, and are not associated with increased mortality. However, some asymptomatic arrhythmias are associated with adverse events. Examples include a higher risk of blood clotting within the heart and a higher risk of insufficient blood being transported to the heart because of weak heartbeat. Other increased risks are of embolisation and stroke, heart failure and sudden cardiac death. If an arrhythmia results in a heartbeat that is too fast, too slow or too weak to supply the body's needs, this manifests as a lower blood pressure and may cause lightheadedness or dizziness, or syncope (fainting). Some types of arrhythmia result in cardiac arrest, or sudden death. Medical assessment of the abnormality using an electrocardiogram is one way to diagnose and assess the risk of any given arrhythmia. Each heart beat originates as an electrical impulse from a small area of tissue in the right atrium of the heart called the sinus node or Sino-atrial node or SA node. The impulse initially causes both atria to contract, then activates the atrioventricular (or AV) node, which is normally the only electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles (main pumping chambers). The impulse then spreads through both ventricles via the Bundle of His and the Purkinje fibres causing a synchronised contraction of the heart muscle and, thus, the pulse. In adults the normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 90 beats per minute. The resting heart rate in children is much faster. In athletes, however, the resting heart rate can be as slow as 40 beats per minute, and be considered as normal. The term sinus arrhythmia refers to a normal phenomenon of alternating mild acceleration and slowing of the heart rate that occurs with breathing in and out. It is usually quite pronounced in children and steadily decreases with age. This can also be present during meditation breathing exercises that involve deep inhaling and breath holding patterns. A slow rhythm (less than 60 beats/min), is labelled bradycardia. This may be caused by a slowed signal from the sinus node (sinus bradycardia), a pause in the normal activity of the sinus node (sinus arrest), or by blocking of the electrical impulse on its way from the atria to the ventricles (AV block or heart block). Heart block comes in varying degrees and severity. It may be caused by reversible poisoning of the AV node (with drugs that impair conduction) or by irreversible damage to the node. Bradycardias may also be present in the normally functioning heart of endurance athletes or other well-conditioned persons. Bradycardia may also occur in some types of seizures. In adults and children over 15, resting heart rate faster than 100 beats per minute is labelled tachycardia. Tachycardia may result in palpitation; however, tachycardia is not necessarily an arrhythmia. Increased heart rate is a normal response to physical exercise or emotional stress. This is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system on the sinus node and called sinus tachycardia. Other conditions that increase sympathetic nervous system activity in the heart include ingested or injected substances, such as caffeine or amphetamines, and an overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) or anemia. Tachycardia that is not sinus tachycardia usually results from the addition of abnormal impulses to the normal cardiac cycle. Abnormal impulses can begin by one of three mechanisms: automaticity, re-entry or triggered activity. A specialised form of re-entry which is both common and problematic is termed fibrillation. Although the term tachycardia has been known for over 160 years, bases for the classification of arrhythmias are still being discussed. Congenital heart defects are structural or electrical pathway problems in the heart that are present at birth. Anyone can be affected with this because overall health does not play a role in the problem. Problems with the electrical pathway of the heart can cause very fast or even deadly arrhythmias. Wolff–Parkinson–White syndrome is due to an extra pathway in the heart that is made up of electrical muscle tissue. This tissue allows the electrical impulse, which stimulates the heartbeat, to happen very rapidly. Right Ventricular outflow tract Tachycardia is the most common type of ventricular tachycardia in otherwise healthy individuals. This defect is due to an electrical node in the right ventricle just before the pulmonary artery. When the node is stimulated, the patient will go into ventricular tachycardia, which does not allow the heart to fill with blood before beating again. Long QT Syndrome is another complex problem in the heart and has been labeled as an independent factor in mortality. There are multiple methods of treatment for these including cardiac ablations, medication treatment, or altering your lifestyle to have less stress and exercise. It is possible to live a full and happy life with these conditions. Automaticity refers to a cardiac muscle cell firing off an impulse on its own. All of the cells in the heart have the ability to initiate an action potential; however, only some of these cells are designed to routinely trigger heart beats. These cells are found in the conduction system of the heart and include the SA node, AV node, Bundle of His and Purkinje fibers. The sinoatrial node is a single specialized location in the atrium that has a higher automaticity (a faster pacemaker) than the rest of the heart and, therefore, is usually responsible for setting the heart rate and initiating each heart beat. Any part of the heart that initiates an impulse without waiting for the sinoatrial node is called an ectopic focus and is, by definition, a pathological phenomenon. This may cause a single premature beat now and then, or, if the ectopic focus fires more often than the sinoatrial node, it can produce a sustained abnormal rhythm. Rhythms produced by an ectopic focus in the atria, or by the atrioventricular node, are the least dangerous dysrhythmias; but they can still produce a decrease in the heart's pumping efficiency, because the signal reaches the various parts of the heart muscle with different timing than usual and can be responsible for poorly coordinated contraction. Conditions that increase automaticity include sympathetic nervous system stimulation and hypoxia. The resulting heart rhythm depends on where the first signal begins: If it is the sinoatrial node, the rhythm remains normal but rapid; if it is an ectopic focus, many types of dysrhythmia may ensue.When an entire chamber of the heart is involved in multiple micro-reentry circuits and is therefore quivering with chaotic electrical impulses, it is said to be in fibrillation. Fibrillation can affect the atrium (atrial fibrillation) or the ventricle (ventricular fibrillation): ventricular fibrillation is imminently life-threatening. Atrial fibrillation affects the upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria. Atrial fibrillation may be due to serious underlying medical conditions and should be evaluated by a physician. It is not typically a medical emergency. Ventricular fibrillation occurs in the ventricles (lower chambers) of the heart; it is always a medical emergency. If left untreated, ventricular fibrillation (VF, or V-fib) can lead to death within minutes. When a heart goes into V-fib, effective pumping of the blood stops. V-fib is considered a form of cardiac arrest. An individual suffering from it will not survive unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and defibrillation are provided immediately. CPR can prolong the survival of the brain in the lack of a normal pulse, but defibrillation is the only intervention that can restore a healthy heart rhythm. Defibrillation is performed by applying an electric shock to the heart, which resets the cells, permitting a normal beat to re-establish itself.

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