Tag Archives: Cardiac arrhythmia

Atrial Fibrillation

Definition:
Atrial fibrillation (AF or A-fib) is the most common cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) and involves the two upper chambers (atria) of the heart. Its name comes from the fibrillating (i.e. quivering) of the heart muscles of the atria, instead of a coordinated contraction. It can often be identified by taking a pulse and observing that the heartbeats don’t occur at regular intervals. However, a stronger indicator of AF is the absence of P waves on an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which are normally present when there is a coordinated atrial contraction at the beginning of each heart beat. Risk increases with age, with 8% of people over 80 having AF.

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In AF, the normal electrical impulses that are generated by the sinoatrial node are overwhelmed by disorganized electrical impulses that originate in the atria and pulmonary veins, leading to conduction of irregular impulses to the ventricles that generate the heartbeat. The result is an irregular heartbeat which may occur in episodes lasting from minutes to weeks, or it could occur all the time for years. The natural tendency of AF is to become a chronic condition. Chronic AF leads to a small increase in the risk of death.

Atrial fibrillation is often asymptomatic, and is not in itself generally life-threatening, but may result in palpitations, fainting, chest pain, or congestive heart failure. People with AF usually have a significantly increased risk of stroke (up to 7 times that of the general population). Stroke risk increases during AF because blood may pool and form clots in the poorly contracting atria and especially in the left atrial appendage (LAA).[4] The level of increased risk of stroke depends on the number of additional risk factors. If a person with AF has none, the risk of stroke is similar to that of the general population. However, many people with AF do have additional risk factors and AF is a leading cause of stroke.

Atrial fibrillation may be treated with medications which either slow the heart rate or revert the heart rhythm back to normal. Synchronized electrical cardioversion may also be used to convert AF to a normal heart rhythm. Surgical and catheter-based therapies may also be used to prevent recurrence of AF in certain individuals. People with AF are often given anticoagulants such as warfarin to protect them from stroke.

Classification: The American College of Cardiology (ACC), American Heart Association (AHA), and the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) recommend in their guidelines the following classification system based on simplicity and clinical relevance.

AF Category…………… Defining Characteristics
First detected ……………….  only one diagnosed episode
Paroxysmal…………………..recurrent episodes that self-terminate in less than 7 days
Persistent……………………….recurrent episodes that last more than 7 days
Permanent……………………..an ongoing long-term episode

All atrial fibrillation patients are initially in the category called first detected AF. These patients may or may not have had previous undetected episodes. If a first detected episode self-terminates in less than 7 days and then another episode begins later on, the case has moved into the category of paroxysmal AF. Although patients in this category have episodes lasting up to 7 days, in most cases of paroxysmal AF the episodes will self-terminate in less than 24 hours. If instead the episode lasts for more than 7 days, it is unlikely to self-terminate and it is called persistent AF. In this case, the episode may be terminated by cardioversion. If cardioversion is unsuccessful or it is not attempted, and the episode is ongoing for a long time (e.g. a year or more), the patient’s AF is called permanent.

Episodes that last less than 30 seconds are not considered in this classification system. Also, this system does not apply to cases where the AF is a secondary condition that occurs in the setting of a primary condition that may be the cause of the AF.

Using this classification system, it’s not always clear what an AF case should be called. For example, a case may fit into the paroxysmal AF category some of the time, while other times it may have the characteristics of persistent AF. One may be able to decide which category is more appropriate by determining which one occurs most often in the case under consideration.

In addition to the above four AF categories, which are mainly defined by episode timing and termination, the ACC/AHA/ESC guidelines describe additional AF categories in terms of other characteristics of the patient.

#Lone atrial fibrillation (LAF) – absence of clinical or echocardiographic findings of other cardiovascular disease (including hypertension), related pulmonary disease, or cardiac abnormalities such as enlargement of the left atrium, and age under 60 years

#Nonvalvular AF – absence of rheumatic mitral valve disease, a prosthetic heart valve, or mitral valve repair

#Secondary AF – occurs in the setting of a primary condition which may be the cause of the AF, such as acute myocardial infarction, cardiac surgery, pericarditis, myocarditis, hyperthyroidism, pulmonary embolism, pneumonia, or other acute pulmonary disease

Although atrial fibrillation itself usually isn’t life-threatening, it is a medical emergency. It can lead to complications. Treatments for atrial fibrillation may include medications and other interventions to try to alter the heart’s electrical system.

Symptoms:
A heart in atrial fibrillation doesn’t beat efficiently. It may not be able to pump enough blood out to your body with each heartbeat.

Some people with atrial fibrillation have no symptoms and are unaware of their condition until it’s discovered during a physical examination. Those who do have atrial fibrillation symptoms may experience:

#Palpitations, which are sensations of a racing, uncomfortable, irregular heartbeat or a flopping in your chest
#Decreased blood pressure
#Weakness
#Lightheadedness
#Confusion
#Shortness of breath
#Chest pain

Atrial fibrillation may be:

#Occasional. In this case it’s called paroxysmal (par-ok-SIZ-mul) atrial fibrillation. You may have symptoms that come and go, lasting for a few minutes to hours and then stopping on their own.
#Chronic. With chronic atrial fibrillation, symptoms may last until they’re treated.

Time to see a doctor:-
If you have any symptoms of atrial fibrillation, make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor should be able to tell you if your symptoms are caused by atrial fibrillation or another heart arrhythmia.

If you have chest pain, seek emergency medical assistance immediately. Chest pain could signal that you’re having a heart attack.

Causes:
To pump blood, your heart muscles must contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm. Contraction and relaxation are controlled by electrical signals that travel through your heart muscle.

Your heart consists of four chambers — two upper chambers (atria) and two lower chambers (ventricles). Within the upper right chamber of your heart (right atrium) is a group of cells called the sinus node. This is your heart’s natural pacemaker. The sinus node produces the impulse that starts each heartbeat.

Normally, the impulse travels first through the atria and then through a connecting pathway between the upper and lower chambers of your heart called the atrioventricular (AV) node. As the signal passes through the atria, they contract, pumping blood from your atria into the ventricles below. As the signal passes through the AV node to the ventricles, the ventricles contract, pumping blood out to your body.

.Sinus rhythm.

..Atrial fibrillation

In atrial fibrillation, the upper chambers of your heart (atria) experience chaotic electrical signals. As a result, they quiver. The AV node — the electrical connection between the atria and the ventricles — is overloaded with impulses trying to get through to the ventricles. The ventricles also beat rapidly, but not as rapidly as the atria. The reason is that the AV node is like a highway on-ramp — only so many cars can get on at one time.

The result is a fast and irregular heart rhythm. The heart rate in atrial fibrillation may range from 100 to 175 beats a minute. The normal range for a heart rate is 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Possible causes of atrial fibrillation :-

Abnormalities or damages to the heart’s structure are the most common cause of atrial fibrillation. Possible causes of atrial fibrillation include:

#High blood pressure
#Heart attacks
#Abnormal heart valves
#Congenital heart defects
#An overactive thyroid or other metabolic imbalance
#Exposure to stimulants such as medications, caffeine or tobacco, or to alcohol
#Sick sinus syndrome — improper functioning of the heart’s natural pacemaker
#Emphysema or other lung diseases
#Previous heart surgery
#Viral infections
#Stress due to pneumonia, surgery or other illnesses
#Sleep apnea
However, some people who have atrial fibrillation don’t have any heart defects or damage, a condition called lone atrial fibrillation. In lone atrial fibrillation, the cause is often unclear, and serious complications are rare.

Atrial flutter :
Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation, but slower. If you have atrial flutter, the abnormal heart rhythm in your atria is more organized and less chaotic than the abnormal patterns common with atrial fibrillation. Sometimes you may have atrial flutter that develops into atrial fibrillation and vice versa. The symptoms, causes and risk factors of atrial flutter are similar to those of atrial fibrillation. For example, strokes are a common concern in someone with atrial flutter. As with atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter is usually not life-threatening when it’s properly treated.

Risk Factors:-

Risk factors for atrial fibrillation include:

#Age. The older you are, the greater your risk of developing atrial fibrillation.
#Heart disease. Anyone with heart disease, including valve problems, history of heart attack and heart surgery, has an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
#High blood pressure. Having high blood pressure, especially if it’s not well controlled with lifestyle changes or medications, can increase your risk of atrial fibrillation.
#Other chronic conditions. People with thyroid problems, sleep apnea and other medical problems have an increased risk of atrial fibrillation.
#Drinking alcohol. For some people, drinking alcohol can trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. Binge drinking — having five drinks in two hours for men, or four drinks for women — may put you at higher risk.
#Family history. An increased risk of atrial fibrillation runs in some families.

Complications:-

Clots and stroke :
One of the most common complications with atrial fibrillation is the formation of blood clots in the heart. As the blood in the upper chambers of the heart (atria) of a patient with atrial fibrillation does not flow out in a normal manner and is very turbulent, there is a greater likelihood of blood clots forming. The clots may then find their way into the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) and eventually end up in the lungs or in the general circulation. Clots in the general circulation may eventually block arteries in the brain, causing a stroke.

A patient with atrial fibrillation is twice as likely to develop a stroke compared to other people. 5% of patients with atrial fibrillation get a stroke each year. The risk is even greater the older the patient is. The following factors raise the risk of stroke even more for patients with atrial fibrillation:

#Hypertension (high blood pressure)
#Diabetes
#Heart failure
#A history of blood clots (embolism)

Strokes may be severe and can cause paralysis of part of the body, speech problems, and even death.

Heart failure:
If the atrial fibrillation is not controlled the heart is likely to get weaker. This may lead to heart failure. Heart failure is when the heart does not pump blood around the body efficiently or properly. The patient’s left side, right side, or even both sides of the body can be affected.

Alzheimer’s disease:
There is a strong relationship between atrial fibrillation and the development of Alzheimer’s disease, according to researchers at Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City.

Diagnosis:-
The evaluation of atrial fibrillation involves diagnosis, determination of the etiology of the arrhythmia, and classification of the arrhythmia. A minimal evaluation should be performed in all individuals with AF. This includes a history and physical examination, ECG, transthoracic echocardiogram, and routine bloodwork. Certain individuals may benefit from an extended evaluation which may include an evaluation of the heart rate response to exercise, exercise stress testing, a chest x-ray, trans-esophageal echocardiography, and other studies.

Screening
Screening for atrial fibrillation is not generally performed, although a study of routine pulse checks or ECGs during routine office visits found that the annual rate of detection of AF in elderly patients improved from 1.04% to 1.63%; selection of patients for prophylactic anticoagulation would improve stroke risk in that age category.[9]

Routine primary care visit
This estimated sensitivity of the routine primary care visit is 64%. This low result probably reflects the pulse not being checked routinely or carefully.

Minimal evaluation
The minimal evaluation of atrial fibrillation should generally be performed in all individuals with AF. The goal of this evaluation is to determine the general treatment regimen for the individual. If results of the general evaluation warrant it, further studies may be then performed.

History and physical examination
The history of the individual’s atrial fibrillation episodes is probably the most important part of the evaluation. Distinctions should be made between those who are entirely asymptomatic when they are in AF (in which case the AF is found as an incidental finding on an ECG or physical examination) and those who have gross and obvious symptoms due to AF and can pinpoint whenever they go into AF or revert to sinus rhythm.

Routine bloodwork
While many cases of AF have no definite cause, it may be the result of various other problems (see below). Hence, renal function and electrolytes are routinely determined, as well as thyroid-stimulating hormone (commonly suppressed in hyperthyroidism and of relevance if amiodarone is administered for treatment) and a blood count.

In acute-onset AF associated with chest pain, cardiac troponins or other markers of damage to the heart muscle may be ordered. Coagulation studies (INR/aPTT) are usually performed, as anticoagulant medication may be commenced

Electrocardiogram
Atrial fibrillation is diagnosed on an electrocardiogram (ECG), an investigation performed routinely whenever an irregular heart beat is suspected. Characteristic findings are the absence of P waves, with unorganized electrical activity in their place, and irregular R-R intervals due to irregular conduction of impulses to the ventricles.

When ECGs are used for screening, the SAFE trial found that electronic software, primary care physicians and the combination of the two had the following sensitivities and specificities:

#Interpreted by software: sensitivity = 83%, specificity = 99%
#Interpreted by a primary care physician: sensitivity = 80%, specificity = 92%
#Interpreted by a primary care physician with software: sensitivity = 92%, specificity = 91%

If paroxysmal AF is suspected but an ECG during an office visit only shows a regular rhythm, AF episodes may be detected and documented with the use of ambulatory Holter monitoring (e.g. for a day). If the episodes are too infrequent to be detected by Holter monitoring with reasonable probability, then the patient can be monitored for longer periods (e.g. a month) with an ambulatory event monitor.

Echocardiography.
A non-invasive transthoracic echocardiogram (TTE) is generally performed in newly diagnosed AF, as well as if there is a major change in the patient’s clinical state. This ultrasound-based scan of the heart may help identify valvular heart disease (which may greatly increase the risk of stroke), left and right atrial size (which indicates likelihood that AF may become permanent), left ventricular size and function, peak right ventricular pressure (pulmonary hypertension), presence of left ventricular hypertrophy and pericardial disease.

Significant enlargement of both the left and right atria is associated with long-standing atrial fibrillation and, if noted at the initial presentation of atrial fibrillation, suggests that the atrial fibrillation is likely to be of a longer duration than the individual’s symptoms.

Extended evaluation
An extended evaluation is generally not necessary in most individuals with atrial fibrillation, and is only performed if abnormalities are noted in the limited evaluation, if a reversible cause of the atrial fibrillation is suggested, or if further evaluation may change the treatment course.

Chest X-ray
A chest X-ray is generally only performed if a pulmonary cause of atrial fibrillation is suggested, or if other cardiac conditions are suspected (particularly congestive heart failure.) This may reveal an underlying problem in the lungs or the blood vessels in the chest.  In particular, if an underlying pneumonia is suggested, then treatment of the pneumonia may cause the atrial fibrillation to terminate on its own.

Transesophageal echocardiogram
A normal echocardiography (transthoracic or TTE) has a low sensitivity for identifying thrombi (blood clots) in the heart. If this is suspected – e.g. when planning urgent electrical cardioversion – a transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE) is preferred.

The TEE has much better visualization of the left atrial appendage than transthoracic echocardiography. This structure, located in the left atrium, is the place where thrombus is formed in more than 90% of cases in non-valvular (or non-rheumatic) atrial fibrillation or flutter. TEE has a high sensitivity for locating thrombus in this area   and can also detect sluggish bloodflow in this area that is suggestive of thrombus formation.

If no thrombus is seen on TEE, the incidence of stroke, (immediately after cardioversion is performed), is very low.

Ambulatory holter monitoring
A Holter monitor is a wearable ambulatory heart monitor that continuously monitors the heart rate and heart rhythm for a short duration, typically 24 hours. In individuals with symptoms of significant shortness of breath with exertion or palpitations on a regular basis, a holter monitor may be of benefit to determine if rapid heart rates (or unusually slow heart rates) during atrial fibrillation are the cause of the symptoms.

Exercise stress testing
Some individuals with atrial fibrillation do well with normal activity but develop shortness of breath with exertion. It may be unclear if the shortness of breath is due to a blunted heart rate response to exertion due to excessive AV node blocking agents, a very rapid heart rate during exertion, or due to other underlying conditions such as chronic lung disease or coronary ischemia. An exercise stress test will evaluate the individual’s heart rate response to exertion and determine if the AV node blocking agents are contributing to the symptoms.

Treatments:-
In some people, a specific event or an underlying condition, such as a thyroid disorder, may trigger atrial fibrillation. If the condition that triggered your atrial fibrillation can be treated, you might not have any more heart rhythm problems — or at least not for quite some time. If your symptoms are bothersome or if this is your first episode of atrial fibrillation, your doctor may attempt to reset the rhythm

The treatment option best for you will depend on how long you’ve had atrial fibrillation, how bothersome your symptoms are and the underlying cause of your atrial fibrillation. Generally, the goals of treating atrial fibrillation are to:

#Reset the rhythm or control the rate
#Prevent blood clots
The strategy you and your doctor choose depends on many factors, including whether you have other problems with your heart and if you’re able to take medications that can control your heart rhythm. In some cases, you may need a more invasive treatment, such as surgery or medical procedures using catheters.

Resetting your heart’s rhythm
Ideally, to treat atrial fibrillation, the heart rate and rhythm are reset to normal. To correct your condition, doctors may be able to reset your heart to its regular rhythm (sinus rhythm) using a procedure called cardioversion, depending on the underlying cause of atrial fibrillation and how long you’ve had it.

Cardioversion can be done in two ways:

#Cardioversion with drugs. This form of cardioversion uses medications called anti-arrhythmics to help restore normal sinus rhythm. Depending on your heart condition, your doctor may recommend trying intravenous or oral medications to return your heart to normal rhythm. This is often done in the hospital with continuous monitoring of your heart rate. If your heart rhythm returns to normal, your doctor often will prescribe the same anti-arrhythmic or a similar one to try to prevent more spells of atrial fibrillation.
#Electrical cardioversion. In this brief procedure, an electrical shock is delivered to your heart through paddles or patches placed on your chest. The shock stops your heart’s electrical activity momentarily. When your heart begins again, the hope is that it resumes its normal rhythm. The procedure is performed during anesthesia.
Before cardioversion, you may be given a blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin (Coumadin), for several weeks to reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke. Unless the episode of atrial fibrillation lasted less than 24 hours, you’ll need to take warfarin for at least four to six weeks after cardioversion to prevent a blood clot from forming even after your heart is back in normal rhythm. Warfarin is a powerful medication that can have dangerous side effects if not taken exactly as directed by your doctor. If you have any concerns about taking warfarin, talk to your doctor.

Or, instead of taking warfarin, you may have a test called transesophageal echocardiography — which can tell your doctor if you have any heart blood clots — just before cardioversion. In transesophageal echocardiography, a tube is passed down your esophagus and detailed ultrasound images are made of your heart. You’ll be sedated during the test.

Maintaining a normal heart rhythm
After electrical cardioversion, anti-arrhythmic medications often are prescribed to help prevent future episodes of atrial fibrillation. Commonly used medications include:

#Amiodarone (Cordarone, Pacerone)
#Propafenone (Rythmol)
#Sotalol (Betapace)
#Dofetilide (Tikosyn)
Although these drugs can help maintain a normal heart rhythm in many people, they can cause side effects, including:

#Nausea
#Dizziness
#Fatigue
Rarely, they may cause ventricular arrhythmias — life-threatening rhythm disturbances originating in the heart’s lower chambers. These medications may be needed indefinitely. Even with medications, the chance of another episode of atrial fibrillation is high.

Heart rate control
Sometimes atrial fibrillation can’t be converted to a normal heart rhythm. Then the goal is to slow the heart rate to between 60 and 100 beats a minute (rate control). Heart rate control can be achieved two ways:

#Medications. Traditionally, doctors have prescribed the medication digoxin (Lanoxin). It can control heart rate at rest, but not as well during activity. Most people require additional or alternative medications, such as calcium channel blockers or beta blockers.
#Atrioventricular (AV) node ablation. If medications don’t work, or you have side effects, AV node ablation may be another option. The procedure involves applying radio frequency energy to the pathway connecting the upper and lower chambers of your heart (AV node) through a long, thin tube (catheter) to destroy this small area of tissue.

The procedure prevents the atria from sending electrical impulses to the ventricles. The atria continue to fibrillate, though, and anticoagulant medication is still required. A pacemaker is then implanted to establish a normal rhythm. After AV node ablation, you’ll need to continue to take blood-thinning medications to reduce the risk of stroke, because your heart rhythm is still atrial fibrillation.

Other surgical and catheter procedures
Sometimes medications or cardioversion to control atrial fibrillation doesn’t work. In those cases, your doctor may recommend a procedure to destroy the area of heart tissue that’s causing the erratic electrical signals and restore your heart to a normal rhythm. These options can include:

#Radiofrequency catheter ablation. In many people who have atrial fibrillation and an otherwise normal heart, atrial fibrillation is caused by rapidly discharging triggers, or “hot spots.” These hot spots are like abnormal pacemaker cells that fire so rapidly that the upper chambers of your heart quiver instead of beating efficiently.

Radiofrequency energy directed to these hot spots through a catheter inserted in an artery near your collarbone or leg may be used to destroy these hot spots, scarring the tissue so the erratic electrical signals are normalized. This corrects the arrhythmia without the need for medications or implantable devices. In some cases, other types of catheters that can freeze the heart tissue (cryotherapy) are used.

#Surgical maze procedure. The maze procedure is often done during an open-heart surgery. Using a scalpel, doctors create several precise incisions in the upper chambers of your heart to create a pattern of scar tissue. Because scar tissue doesn’t carry electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause atrial fibrillation. Radiofrequency or cryotherapy can also be used to create the scars, and there are several variations of the surgical maze technique. The procedure has a high success rate, but because it usually requires open-heart surgery, it’s generally reserved for people who don’t respond to other treatments or when it can be done during other necessary heart surgery, such as coronary artery bypass surgery or heart valve repair. Some people need a pacemaker implanted after the procedure.

Preventing blood clots
Most people who have atrial fibrillation or who are undergoing certain treatments for atrial fibrillation are at especially high risk of blood clots that can lead to stroke. The risk is even higher if other heart disease is present along with atrial fibrillation. Your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants) such as warfarin (Coumadin) in addition to medications designed to treat your irregular heartbeat. Many people have spells of atrial fibrillation and don’t even know it — so you may need lifelong anticoagulants even after your rhythm has been restored to normal. If you’re prescribed warfarin, carefully follow your doctor’s instructions on taking it. Warfarin is a powerful medication that can have dangerous side effects.

Change of Lifestyle :

You may need to make lifestyle changes that improve the overall health of your heart, especially to prevent or treat conditions such as high blood pressure. Your doctor may suggest that you:

#Eat heart-healthy foods and avoid Junk or Fast food
#Reduce your salt intake, which can help lower blood pressure
#Increase your physical activity
#Quit smoking
#Pratice regular Exercise Or walk for about 45 minutes daily

Avoid drinking more than one drink of alcohol for women or more than two drinks for men a day.

Prevention:-
There are some things you can do to try to prevent recurrent spells of atrial fibrillation. You may need to reduce or eliminate caffeinated and alcoholic beverages from your diet, because they can sometimes trigger an episode of atrial fibrillation. It’s also important to be careful when taking over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some, such as cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, contain stimulants that can trigger atrial fibrillation. Also, some OTC medications can have dangerous interactions with anti-arrhythmic medications.

Disclaimer: This information is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advise or help. It is always best to consult with a Physician about serious health concerns. This information is in no way intended to diagnose or prescribe remedies.This is purely for educational purpose.

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrial_fibrillation
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/atrial-fibrillation/DS00291
http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/info/atrial-fibrillation/

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Holter Monitor

Alternative Names : Ambulatory electrocardiography; Electrocardiography – ambulatory

Definition
A Holter monitor is a machine that continuously records the heart’s rhythms. The monitor is usually worn for 24 – 48 hours during normal activity.It is a portable EKG device that records your heart rhythm over time, outside the hospital or doctor’s office.Whereas a regular EKG examines your heart’s electrical activity for a few minutes, the Holter monitor examines changes over a sustained period of time-usually a 24- to 48-hour period-while you go about your daily activities and even while you sleep. Doctors use it to evaluate symptoms that come and go and that might be related to heart-rhythm changes.

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How the Test is Performed ?
Electrodes (small conducting patches) are stuck onto your chest and attached to a small recording monitor. You carry the Holter monitor in a pocket or small pouch worn around your neck or waist. The monitor is battery operated.

While you wear the monitor, it records your heart’s electrical activity. You should keep a diary of what activities you do while wearing the monitor. After 24 – 48 hours, you return the monitor to your doctor’s office. The doctor will look at the records and see if there have been any irregular heart rhythms.

It is very important that you accurately record your symptoms and activities so that the doctor can match them with your Holter monitor findings.
Why the Test is Performed ?
Holter monitoring is used to determine how the heart responds to normal activity. The monitor may also be used:

*After a heart attack
*To diagnose heart rhythm problems
*When starting a new heart medicine

It may be used to diagnose:
*Atrial fibrillation/flutter
*Multifocal atrial tachycardia
*Palpitations
*Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia
*Reasons for fainting
*Slow heart rate (bradycardia)
*Ventricular tachycardia

What happens when the test is performed?
A technician in your doctor’s office or a diagnostic lab fits you with a Holter monitor and explains how to use it. Five stickers are attached to your chest.Wires snap onto each of these stickers and connect them to the monitor. The wires detect your heart’s electrical pattern throughout the day, while the monitor records and stores the data for doctors to interpret later. You can fit the monitor into a purse or jacket pocket or wear it over your shoulder by its strap.

You can go about your normal activities with two exceptions. First, you can’t take a shower or bath during the period that you’re wearing the monitor. Second, you are given a small diary in which to note any worrisome symptoms you feel and record the time when they occur. The doctor will later review both your diary and the data about your heart’s activity from the monitor, to see if any symptoms you experienced were caused by some underlying heart problem. There are no side effects from the testing.
How to Prepare for the Test ?
There is no special preparation for the test. Your doctor will start the monitor. You’ll be told how to replace the electrodes should they fall off or become loose.

Tell your doctor if you are allergic to any tape or other adhesives. Make sure you shower or bathe before you start the test. You will not be able to do so while you are wearing a Holter monitor

Men with a lot of hair on their chest will probably have to shave it.

How the Test Will Feel?
This is a painless test. However, some people may need to have their chest shaved so the electrodes can stick.

You must keep the monitor close to your body. This may make sleeping difficult for some people.

You should continue your normal activities while wearing the monitor.

Risk Factors:
There are no risks.However, you should be sure not to let the monitor get wet.

Must  you do anything special after the test is over?
You need only return the Holter monitor.

Normal Results:-
Normal variations in heart rate occur with activities. A normal result is no significant changes in heart rhythms or pattern.

What Abnormal Results Mean?
Abnormal results may include various arrhythmias. Changes may mean that the heart is not getting enough oxygen.

The monitor may also detect conduction block, a condition in which the atrial electrical activity is either delayed or does not continue into the ventricles of the heart.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?
It usually takes a few days for your recording to be printed out and examined.

Considerations :-
Electrodes must be firmly attached to the chest so the machine gets an accurate recording of the heart’s activity.

While wearing the device, avoid:
*Electric blankets
*High-voltage areas
*Magnets
*Metal detectors

It is very important for you to keep a diary of symptoms. The diary should include the date, time of day, type, and duration of symptoms.

Resources:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/diagnostics/holter-monitor.shtml
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/MEDLINEPLUS/ency/imagepages/8810.htm
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/MEDLINEPLUS/ency/article/003877.htm

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Electrophysiological Testing of the Heart

Definition:
An electrophysiology (EP) study is a test that records the electrical activity and the electrical pathways of your heart. This test is used to help determine the cause of your heart rhythm disturbance and the best treatment for you. During the EP study, your doctor will safely reproduce your abnormal heart rhythm and then may give you different medications to see which one controls it best or to determine the best procedure or device to treat your heart rhythm.
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Sometimes doctors will recommend a treatment called ablation that can be done during EPS testing. Ablation uses electricity to kill the cells in the heart muscle that seem to cause the abnormal rhythm.

You may click to see:->Electrophysiology Study

 

Why Do you Need an Electrophysiology Study?
*To determine the cause of an abnormal heart rhythm.

*To locate the site of origin of an abnormal heart rhythm.

*To decide the best treatment for an abnormal heart rhythm.

Sometimes an EP study is conducted before implantable cardioverter/defibrillator (ICD) placement to determine which device is best and afterwards to monitor treatment success.

How do you prepare for the test?
*You will need to sign a consent form giving your doctor permission to perform this test. Tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to lidocaine or the numbing medicine used at the dentist’s office. Also tell your doctor if you have ever had an allergic reaction to any heart medicines.

*Talk with your doctor ahead of time if you are taking insulin, or if you take aspirin, nonsteroidal antiinflammatory drugs, or other medicines that affect blood clotting. It may be necessary to stop or adjust the dose of these medicines before your test. Most people need to have a blood test done some time before the procedure to make sure they are not at high risk for bleeding complications.

*Your doctor may tell you not to eat anything for 12 or more hours before the test. A few people require an anti-anxiety medicine which occasionally causes nausea, and therefore some doctors prefer to have you come with an empty stomach. You might need to plan to spend the night in the hospital afterwards for recovery.

*Ask your doctor what medications you are allowed to take. Your doctor may ask you to stop certain medications one to five days before your EP study. If you have diabetes, ask your doctor how you should adjust your diabetes medications.

*Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the evening before the EP study. If you must take medications, take them only with a small sip of water.

*When you come to the hospital, wear comfortable clothes. You will change into a hospital gown for the procedure. Leave all jewelry or valuables at home.

*Your doctor will tell you if you can go home or must stay in the hospital after the procedure. If you are able to go home, bring a companion to drive you home.

What happens when the test is performed?
The test is done by a specialist using equipment and cameras in the cardiology department. You wear a hospital gown and lie on your back during the procedure. You have an IV (intravenous) line placed in a vein in case you need medicines or fluid during the procedure. Your heart is monitored during the test.

A catheter (a hollow, sterile tube that resembles spaghetti) is inserted through the skin into a blood vessel-typically in your groin, but possibly in the neck or arm. Before the catheter is placed, medicine through a small needle is used to numb the skin and the tissue underneath the skin in that area. The numbing medicine usually stings for a second. A needle on a syringe is then inserted, and some blood is drawn into the syringe, so that the doctor knows exactly where the blood vessel is located. One end of a wire is threaded into the blood vessel through the needle and the needle is pulled out, leaving the wire temporarily in place. This wire is several feet long, but only a small part of it is inside your blood vessel. The catheter can then be slipped over the outside end of the wire and moved forward along it like a long bead on a string, until it is in place with one end inside the blood vessel. The wire is pulled out of the catheter, leaving the catheter in place. Now the catheter can be moved easily forwards and backwards inside your blood vessel by the doctor, who holds the outside end of the catheter while using special controls to point the tip of the catheter in different directions. The doctor carefully moves the catheter to the large blood vessels in your chest and into the chambers of your heart.

As your physician maneuvers the catheter, he or she watches a live video x-ray to know exactly where the catheter is. Instruments on the tip of the catheter allow it to sense electrical patterns from your heart and also to deliver small electrical shocks to the heart muscle (or a stronger electrical burn if you are having ablation). The electrical shocks, too small for you to feel, are used to “tickle” the heart muscle in different places to see if your abnormal rhythm is triggered by one sensitive area of your heart. If the rhythm changes, your doctor gives you small doses of different medicines through this catheter to see which ones work best to change the rhythm back to normal. In some cases the doctor may need to give your heart some additional mild shocks to get it back into a normal rhythm. Because this catheter is in place inside your heart and can give the shocks directly to the heart muscle, very small amounts of electricity are used.

After the catheter has been pulled out, a pressure bandage (basically a thick lump of gauze) is taped tightly to your groin to reduce bleeding. The test usually requires one to two hours to perform.

Many patients are able to feel palpitations (an irregular or fast heartbeat) from the rhythm changes. A few patients also experience shortness of breath or dizziness when they are not in a normal heart rhythm. Other than the brief sting of the numbing medicine and some soreness in your groin area afterward, you are not likely to feel any pain. For some people, the procedure provokes anxiety. Some patients also have a difficult time lying still for the time it takes to perform this test.
What Can you Expect During the Electrophysiology Study?
*You will lie on a bed and the nurse will start an intravenous (IV) line into your arm or hand. This is so you can receive medications and fluids during the electrophysiology study. You will be given a medication through your IV to relax you and make you drowsy, but it will not put you to sleep.

*The nurse will connect you to several monitors.
Your groin will be shaved and cleansed with an antiseptic solution. Sterile drapes are used to cover you, from your neck to your feet. A soft strap will be placed across your waist and arms to prevent your hands from coming in contact with the sterile field.

An electrophysiologist (a doctor who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms) will numb your groin with medication and then insert several catheters into the vein in your groin. Guided by the fluoroscopy machine, the catheters are threaded to your heart. The catheters sense the electrical activity in your heart and are used to evaluate your heart’s conduction system. The doctor will use a pacemaker to deliver the electrical impulses through one of the catheters to increase your heart rate.

You may feel your heart beating faster or stronger. Your nurses and doctor will want to know about any symptoms you are feeling. If your arrhythmia occurs, your doctor may give you medications through your IV to test their effectiveness in controlling it. If necessary, a small amount of energy may be delivered by the patches on your chest to bring back a normal heart rhythm. Based on the information collected during the study, the doctor may continue with an ablation procedure or device implant (pacemaker or ICD).

The EP study takes about two to four hours to perform. However, it can take longer if additional treatments such as catheter ablation are performed at the same time.

Risk Factors:
There are significant risks from this procedure. Most important, some abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) can be life-threatening, and your doctors will purposefully cause you to go through a few extra episodes of arrhythmia during the testing. If your doctors recommend electrophysiologic testing, they feel that this is a risk worth taking because it will allow them to take better care of you in the future. Because you are right in the lab and attached to a monitor while you undergo the rhythm changes, it is easy for them to treat you should your arrhythmia occur and cause you symptoms.

Ablation has some additional risks, because it intentionally causes some scarring of a small part of the heart muscle. Complications are rare, but new rhythm changes can occur. A very rare complication occurs if the ablation instrument burns a hole through the heart muscle. This causes bleeding and may require immediate surgery.

There are some more minor risks from the test. Among them is bleeding from the place where the catheter was inserted. If bleeding occurs but the blood collects under the skin, it can form a large painful bruise called a hematoma. A few people are allergic to the medicines used in the procedure, and this can cause a rash or other symptoms.

Must you do anything special after the test is over?
You will need to lie flat for around six hours after this procedure. If you received anti-anxiety medicine through your IV during the procedure, you might feel sleepy at the end of the procedure and you might not remember much of the test. You should not drive or drink alcohol for the rest of the day.

Depending on what happened during your test, you might need to wear a heart monitor in the hospital for a few hours or overnight.

What Happens After the EP Study?
The doctor will remove the catheters from your groin and apply pressure to the site, to prevent bleeding. You will be on bed rest for about one to two hours.

An EP study can be frightening, but this test allows the doctor to decide the best treatment for you. In many cases, EP testing and the therapy following can greatly reduce the likelihood of spontaneous arrhythmia. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your doctor or nurse.

How long is it before the result of the test is known?
Your doctors can tell you how the testing went as soon as it is over. If you had ablation done, the results will not be certain until you have had some time to see if your arrhythmia seems to be under control after the treatment.

Resources:
https://www.health.harvard.edu/fhg/diagnostics/electrophysiological-testing-of-the-heart.shtml
http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/guide/diagnosing-electrophysiology

http://www.londoncardiac.ca/pages/bfs.html

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Anger Alert for Heart

Episodes of anger may lead to potentially lethal abnormal heart rhythms in patients with heart disease and those who are survivors of heart attacks, a medical study has suggested.

…….CLICK & SEE

The study by researchers at the Yale University School of Medicine in the US is the first to show how emotion triggers a distinct pattern of electrical activity that contributes to arrhythmias — abnormal heart rhythms.

The researchers who monitored a group of 62 patients found that those with high levels of anger-induced electrical cardiac activity called T-wave alternans were more likely to experience arrhythmias than patients with low levels of this electrical activity.

Anger appeared to increase the risk of arrythmias by up to 10 times. The findings will appear shortly in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

“Our study identified individuals vulnerable to increased electrical instability due to emotion,” said Rachel Lampert, associate professor of medicine at Yale who has been exploring how mental stress can disturb heart rhythms.

The researchers studied patients with heart problems who had implantable cardioverter-defibrillators — small, battery-powered devices in the chest from where they constantly monitor the heart rate and rhythm.

When the device detects abnormal heart rhythms, it delivers an electrical shock to the heart muscle to stop the arrhythmia and return the heart to its normal rhythm.

The study examined incidence of arrhythmias over three years and found that patients with arrhythmias had higher T-wave alternans induced by anger than patients who had not experienced arrhythmias.

Arrhythmias of concern are rare in healthy people. “The implications of our findings are for the increasing number of people who have survived a heart attack or are living with heart failure,” Lampert told The Telegraph.

Cardiologists believe it is important to identify patients who are at risk of developing life-threatening arrhythmias. The results suggest that therapy to help patients deal with anger and other negative emotions may reduce arrhythmias, said Lampert.

Sources:
The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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