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Heart Rhythm Disorders

Treating Atrial Fibrillation & Other Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are disorders of the electrical system of the heart. They may cause the heart to beat too rapidly, too slowly, or irregularly. Some arrhythmias are common and cause a wide variety of symptoms such as heart racing, skipping or fluttering in the chest.

Changes from the normal sequence of the heart’s electrical impulses may also cause symptoms such as lightheadedness, shortness of breath or trouble breathing, chest pain or heaviness, passing out, and fatigue.

Arrhythmias are sometimes harmless and can occur in the healthiest heart—at the same time, they can indicate an issue that could lead to heart failure, stroke, or heart attack.

Arrhythmia Treatment

The cardiac electrophysiology team in Valley Health’s Heart & Vascular Center at Winchester Medical Center specializes in diagnosing and managing heart problems caused by arrhythmias. Electrophysiology is the use of the electrical properties of the heart to regulate or correct heartbeat and restore a normal rhythm.

Arrhythmia treatments include:

  • Controlled electric shock (cardioversion)
  • Medications
  • Ablation
  • Pacemakers
  • Implantable defibrillators

Ablation: Minimally Invasive Treatment

Irregular heartbeats are caused when the electrical signals of the heart are out of sync or not working correctly. Ablation techniques disable heart cells that are the source of the electrical abnormality, restoring a regular heartbeat. While ablation once required open chest surgery, doctors can now offer the procedure through minimally invasive means using wires and catheters inserted through vessels in the leg.

Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) – an irregular, often rapid heartbeat – is the most common heart rhythm disorder, affecting an estimated 3 to 6 million Americans. Sometimes patients with AFib have no symptoms, while others may experience the following:

  • General fatigue
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat
  • Heart fluttering
  • Chest pounding
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest heaviness

Patients with AFib have an increased risk of stroke, heart failure and other complications. They often require treatment with medications or procedures to normalize the heart rhythm and to reduce stroke risk.

Stroke Prevention in Atrial Fibrillation

Atrial fibrillation (AFib) – an irregular heartbeat that feels like a quivering heart – is a common heart rhythm disorder that affects an estimated six million Americans. Patients with AFib have a five-fold increased risk of stroke due to blood clots that can form in an area of heart called the left atrial appendage (LAA) and travel to the brain.

Anticoagulation (blood thinning) medications are frequently used to help reduce stroke risk. For patients with AFib who are at high risk for stroke and cannot take blood thinners, specialists at Valley Health offer an alternative to long-term blood thinning medications: implantable devices that block or close off the LAA to keep clots from entering the blood stream and potentially causing a stroke. The device is placed in the heart using a minimally invasive procedure.

Ventricular Arrhythmias

Ventricular tachycardia originates in the lower chambers of the heart and causes the heart to race, preventing it from pumping blood effectively to the rest of the body. Symptoms may include lightheadedness and fainting. Treatment options include medications to control heart rate or ablation to restore a regular heartbeat. For patients with sustained ventricular tachycardia, which can lead to sudden cardiac death, our specialists may place an implantable cardiac defibrillator.


A slower than normal heart rate, bradycardia usually does not require treatment. If it is more severe and causes symptoms such as fatigue, lightheadedness or shortness of breath, an implanted pacemaker can return the heart rate to normal. Valley Health’s arrhythmia specialists can also implant a newer and smaller type of leadless pacemaker directly in the heart using a minimally invasive procedure.

Consult Your Doctor About Arrhythmia Treatment at Valley Health

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