UAB Medicine

Arrhythmia Overview

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Arrhythmia is a common heart ailment that causes palpitations, or fluttering of the heart. Arrhythmias can vary in severity from infrequent and minor palpitations to a severe and life-threatening irregular heartbeat.

Symptoms can be simple awareness of the palpitations, to fatigue, to even passing out.

Arrhythmias often start in childhood, but can appear later in life.

The expert electrophysiologists of UAB Heart and Vascular Services  are regional and world leaders in the treatment of arrhythmia.

When arrhythmia becomes a problem, patients referred to UAB will meet with an electrophysiologist to review their electrocardiogram (EKG) and discuss options for treatment. In some instances, patients may wear a heart monitor for a  period of time to better diagnosis the arrhythmia.

Depending on the diagnosis, treatment of arrhythmia can involve medicine, pacemakers, defibrillators or catheter ablation.

Catheter ablation is established as the first line treatment of many arrhythmias including Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome and AV nodal reentrant tachycardia as it offers a complete cure of the condition. Ablation is increasingly used for the treatment of other arrhythmias including  atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

The ablation procedure is minimally invasive and involves inserting a catheter from the leg and navigating to the heart similar to a heart catheterization. From there, small wires are temporarily placed in the heart to identify the cause of the arrhythmia Once the cause is identified it is treated with ablation of a small area of tissue typically with radiofrequency energy.

Ablation is successful in a majority of cases and can provide a cure for arrhythmia. Patients often go home the same day or spend one night in the hospital and go home the next morning

Clinical Trials
UAB is active in several clinical trials related to the treatment of arrhythmia. All patients seen in the electrophysiology program at UAB are screened for clinical trial eligibility.

Get Help
If you think you may have an arrhythmia, talk to your physician about your symptoms and ask if a referral to UAB Heart and Vascular Services may be right for you. Referrals may be made by calling MIST at 1.800.UAB.MIST (1.800.822.6478)

Patients can get more information, by calling UAB Healthfinder at 1.800.UAB.8816 (1.800.822.8816) or by filling out our   Make an Appointment form »