What are arrhythmias?
Arrhythmias are abnormal heartbeats. Some people refer to them as "skipped beats". They refer to any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses. Some arrhythmias may be very short, lasting only several seconds or minutes, others are permanent, lasting for much longer. When they last longer, complications can occur and the heart pumps less effectively.
Arrhythmias may be completely harmless or life-threatening and may happen too fast, too slowly, or erratically.
Arrhythmias may happen both in adults as well as in fetuses, and when they happen, a work-up and tests are necessary to find the exact cause.
There are several types of arrhythmias:
- Bradycardia = slow heart rate less than 60 beats per minute
- Tachycardia = very fast heart rate over 100 beats per minute
- Atrial Fibrillation = upper heart chambers contract irregularly
- Conduction Disorders = heart does not beat normally
- Premature contraction = early heartbeat
- Ventricular Fibrillation = disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart
- Other Rhythm Disorders
An arrhythmia can happen when the pacemaker that normally instructs the heart to beat normally develops an abnormal rhythm or rate, or the pathway is interrupted, or the pacemaker moves to another heart part.