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What are ventricular arrhythmias?

            Ventricular arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms that originate from the bottom chambers of the heart.  The two most common forms of ventricular arrhythmias are ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation.  Ventricular tachycardia tends to be a more regular rhythm and the heart may beat from 100 to 250 beats per minute.  Ventricular fibrillation is a disorganized and irregular rhythm.  The heart may beat 250 beats per minute or faster when the heart is in ventricular fibrillation. 

What are the signs and symptoms of ventricular arrhythmias?

            An episode of a ventricular arrhythmia may stop quickly on its own and cause few if any symptoms.  If these abnormal heart rhythms continue, then they may cause     
symptoms that can include a sensation of a rapid and irregular heart rate, fatigue, lightheadedness, fainting, shortness of breath, chest pain, or even death. 

What causes ventricular arrhythmias?

            There are a variety of potential causes of ventricular arrhythmias including abnormal electrolyte levels in the blood, abnormal thyroid levels, medications, heart attacks, abnormal heart valves, congestive heart failure, abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, and some inheritable diseases. 

Who is at risk of developing ventricular arrhythmias?

            Patients with the highest risk of developing ventricular arrhythmias are those who have already survived a cardiac arrest from a prior ventricular arrhythmia.  Other patients who may be at increased risk for a ventricular arrhythmia are those scare tissue in the heart from a prior heart attack, a family history of sudden death, a cardiomyopathy which is a weakening of the heart, or serious symptoms which have been correlated with ventricular arrhythmias by using a holter monitor or loop monitor.

How can ventricular arrhythmias be treated?

            The treatment for ventricular arrhythmias depends upon the cause of the abnormal heart rhythm.  For some patients, the treatment may be as simple as correcting their electrolyte imbalance such as giving potassium supplementation.  Those patients who experience ventricular arrhythmias as a result of a blocked artery in the heart may require treatment of that blocked artery with an angioplasty or bypass surgery.  Other patients may require treatment with medications such beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, or antiarrhythmic medications.  Some patients may require an ablation or implantation of a defibrillator.


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