HEART-RHYTHM IRREGULARITY (Arrhythmia)
DESCRIPTIONHeart-rhythm irregularities indicate abnormalities in the rhythm of the heartbeat. The heart and nerves that transmit impulses to coordinate heart-muscle contractions are involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Psychotherapy or counseling, if stress is a major factor.
DC cardioversion (See Glossary) in a hospital or outpatient surgical facility.
Surgery to correct some heart problems (coronary-artery bypass, damaged valve replacement, or insertion of a pacemaker).
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSAwareness of one's own heartbeat, including whether it skips, is always fast, slow, irregular, or suddenly changes rhythm.
Shortness of breath.
Sudden faintness or weakness.
No symptoms (frequently).
CAUSESHeart diseases, such as rheumatic fever, congenital heart disease, cardiomyopathy, previous heart attack, or heart-muscle inflammation.
Endocrine disorders, especially thyroid and adrenal-gland diseases.
Fluid and electrolyte imbalance, especially too little or too much potassium.
Side effects of certain drugs, especially digitalis, beta-adrenergic blockers, stimulants, and diuretics.
Overdose of certain drugs, including antidepressants, marijuana, and cocaine.
Postoperative effects following chest or heart surgery.
Chronic kidney disease.
Use of certain drugs, such as caffeine, alcohol, amphetamines, and many non-prescription cough and cold remedies.
Fatigue, overwork, or sleep deprivation.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCEIf your child has any disorders listed as causes or risks, follow the treatment program carefully to control the disease. If medication is part of your child's treatment, consult your doctor about having blood levels monitored and electrolytes measured periodically.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor (sometimes a cardiologist).
Laboratory blood studies.
EKG and 24-hour Holter monitor (See Glossary for both).
X-rays of the heart, including echocardiogram (See Glossary).
Congestive heart failure.
Death from prolonged (more than 3 to 6 minutes) cardiac arrest.
Most rhythm disturbances can be controlled with treatment. Very occasional, irregular heartbeats are harmless and require no treatment for your child.
Consider lifestyle changes for your child. See Appendix 19.
Urge your child to wear a Medic-Alert bracelet or pendant (See Glossary) showing the name of the condition.
A few arrhythmias are fatal unless cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is performed immediately. Take a course to learn CPR, especially if someone in your home or neighborhood has heart disease.
Your doctor may prescribe antiarrhythmic medications. You may need to try several to find the most effective one.
Your child can resume most normal activities as soon as symptoms improve. Consult your doctor about exercise.
DIET & FLUIDSSome heart medicines require extra potassium, found mostly in citrus fruits, bananas, dried apricots or peaches, raisins, lentils, and whole-grain cereals. Ask your doctor if your child needs to eat more of these.
Urge your child not to drink caffeine-containing beverages, such as coffee, tea, cola, or chocolate.
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-rhythm irregularity.