New innovations and technologies are allowing electrophysiologists to more effectively treat cardiac arrhythmias.
Medications remain the front-line treatment for abnormally fast heart rates including atrial fibrillation. Several new medicines allow physicians to stabilize the heartbeat and prevent serious complications by returning the heart to a normal rhythm and, if the arrhythmias continue, there are medications that prevent the heart from beating too quickly.
- Electrical cardioversion is a non-surgical procedure used for patients who have persistent atrial fibrillation. It involves sending an electrical current through the chest wall to “reset” the heartbeat to a normal rhythm.
- Implantable Devices include implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemaker therapy. For patients with recurring heart rhythm disturbances, these implantable devices can provide automatic electrical therapy on a continual basis and prevent life threatening arrhythmias.
- Catheter-Based Ablation is a procedure used to selectively eliminate (damage or get rid of) the heart cells causing the arrhythmia.
When all other appropriate options, including minimally invasive surgical procedures, have failed, surgical treatment may be needed. Surgical ablation is a major surgical procedure requiring general anesthesia. The chest is opened, exposing the heart. The site of the arrhythmia is located, the tissue is destroyed or removed in order to eliminate the source of the arrhythmia. This is typically done at the time of a concurrent cardiac surgical procedure such as cardiac bypass surgery or valve repair/replacement.