HEART BLOCK (Atrioventricular Block)
DESCRIPTIONA heart block is a persistent disruption (either mild or major) in transmission of electrical signals between the heart's upper and lower chambers. Contractions of the atria (upper heart chambers) lose synchronization with those of the ventricles (lower heart chambers). The heartbeat is no longer regulated normally to quicken under exertion or stress and slow down at other times. The heart's electrical-transmission system that coordinates contractions of heart-muscle cells are involved. The heart's natural pacemaker initiates the electrical system.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Surgery to implant an artificial pacemaker (sometimes).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSNo symptoms (sometimes) for less-severe forms.
Slow, irregular heartbeat.
Sudden loss of consciousness.
CAUSESCoronary-artery disease, a sign of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
Congenital heart abnormalities.
Excessive digitalis and some other medications.
Improper diet that is high in fat and salt.
Heart disease, including atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure or heart-valve disease.
High blood pressure.
Previous electrolyte imbalance.
Use of some drugs, such as digitalis, quinidine, or beta-adrenergic blockers.
Sick-sinus syndrome (See Glossary).
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Obtain medical treatment for any underlying disease in your child.
Urge your child not to smoke.
Encourage your child to exercise regularly (See Appendix 36).
Provide your child with a diet that is low in fat (See Appendix 28) and low in salt (See Appendix 29).
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
EKG (See Glossary).
Holter monitor, a 12- or 24-hour continuous EKG monitor (See Glossary).
POSSIBLE COMPLICATIONSUncontrolled slow, rapid or irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.
Symptoms can be controlled with surgery to implant a pacemaker.
Your child should wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant (See Glossary) in case of a sudden loss of consciousness.
Your child should not smoke.
MEDICATIONThere are no medications that cure heart block, but there are some that make it worse. Your child should not take medications to relieve allergy or nasal congestion, including antihistamines, or any stimulant, including caffeine, cocaine, or marijuana.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Don't think of your child as an invalid. Unless your doctor advises against it, mild exercise is helpful and not to be feared. Your child should begin a regular exercise program--walking is ideal -- and increase the amount daily.
DIET & FLUIDSLose weight if you are overweight. A reducing diet appears in Appendix 31. Don't use amphetamines or other appetite suppressants to curb your appetite.
Avoid excessive use of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol depresses the heartbeat.
Avoid caffeine in all forms. It is in coffee, tea, cocoa, cola drinks, and chocolate.
Instructions for your child:
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?When appetite returns and alertness, strength, and feeling of well-being will allow.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of heart block, especially an episode with loss of consciousness.
After diagnosis, stress increases in your child's life.