Heart & Lung Health

An overview of ventricular arrhythmia

Ventricular arrhythmia is the abnormal heartbeats that begin in the lower chambers of the heart, also known as ventricles. These abnormal heartbeats cause the heart to beat too fast, preventing the oxygen-rich blood from getting circulated to the brain and the body, thereby increasing the risk of a cardiac arrest. There are different types of ventricular arrhythmia, namely, ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and premature ventricular contractions.

Ventricular tachycardia
The human body has a natural pacemaker called the SA node, which enables the heart to beat; however, in the case of ventricular tachycardia, the heart beats abnormally due to the SA node. This happens when the heart’s contraction is lowered and the electrical pathways in the body take over the role of the SA node, causing the ventricles to be abnormal. Subsequently, this causes the affected person to experience shortness of breath, fainting, and dizziness.

Ventricular fibrillation
Ventricular fibrillation is considered a serious condition as it accounts for irregular heartbeats that often occur when multiple impulses take place all at once in different locations in the body and contract the heart simultaneously. It gets difficult for the heart to pump blood when the heartbeat gets too fast. This often causes loss of consciousness and calls for immediate medical attention.

Premature ventricular contractions
This is a condition where ventricular contraction occurs too soon. It is not as serious as ventricular fibrillation but can still cause the heart to lose its normal heartbeat sequence. Although premature ventricular doesn’t need treatment, it can become a trigger or a risk factor for a more serious ventricular arrhythmia.

Causes of ventricular arrhythmia
There are many risk factors or situations mentioned below that may lead to ventricular arrhythmia.

  • Abnormalities in the thyroid hormone
  • Consumption of alcohol and other toxins
  • Lack of sleep
  • Excess stress
  • Coronary artery disease and a variety of underlying coronary artery diseases
  • Congenital causes
  • Infections or inflammation of the heart muscle
  • Abnormal levels of electrolytes in the blood

Treatments available for ventricular arrhythmia
There are several emergency treatments available for ventricular arrhythmia, which include cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automatic external defibrillators (AED).

  • CPR: In ventricular arrhythmia, especially ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, the blood flow to the brain and body is inadequate. Therefore, CPR is given to the patient by mimicking the heart’s motions of pumping blood so that their heart can pump blood.
  • AED: To stop ventricular arrhythmia, doctors give an electric shock to the heart through the chest wall and restore the normal rhythm and heartbeat.

These are the temporary treatments given at the time of emergency and therefore don’t provide long-term results. For long term treatment of ventricular arrhythmia, there are medications, implanted devices, and catheters that help a patient treat the condition:

  • Antiarrhythmic medications: These are medications that are designed to reduce the ventricular arrhythmias.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator: This is an implanted device that is placed under the skin, so it monitors and treats the condition by providing prompt electrical shocks.
  • Catheter ablation: This treatment involves the insertion of catheters into the blood vessels such that the wire is positioned in the heart. The catheter is then positioned at the abnormal heart rhythm where energy in the form of radiofrequency is delivered to the tip of the catheter to resolve arrhythmia.