Symptoms We Treat
Atrial flutter (AFL) is a common abnormal heart rhythm, similar to atrial fibrillation. In atrial flutter the top chambers of the heart (atrium) are beating in a circular circuit causing the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles) to beat irregularly. This can result in palpitations, shortness of breath or near fainting. As with atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter may require blood thinners. Treatment can be either a direct current cardioversion or ablation. Ablation usually results in permanent cure.
Atrial tachycardia (AT) is a common abnormal heart rhythm originating from the top chambers of the heart (atrium). It is one of the 3 common types of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). The source is usually a couple of cells near each other firing more rapidly than your heart should, and therefore causing palpitations, shortness of breath or near fainting. It is usually not dangerous or life threatening. Treatment options can either be medications, a direct current cardioversion, or ablation. Ablation usually results in permanent cure.
Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
Bradycardia is when the heart rate (pulse) is lower than normal. It is the opposite of tachycardia. It usually results in dizziness, near fainting or actual fainting. There are a couple of different types of bradycardia, and treatment usually is pacemaker implantation.
Brugada Syndrome (BS) is a rare genetic abnormality with a sodium channel in the heart’s electrical system. Specifically, this disorder can lead to irregular heartbeats in the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles), which is an abnormality called ventricular arrhythmia and can be life threatening. Brugada is either found incidentally on a routine EKG, or sometimes found when patients begin to faint. There are 3 types of Brugada Syndrome, and some require either medication or behavior avoidance, or even a defibrillator.
A cardiac arrest is when the heart fails to pump blood due to a dangerous arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) called either ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation. The most common cause is a blockage in the heart artery, and patients present with sudden collapse or fainting. Treatment is individualized to whatever the cause of the cardiac arrest is, and this sometimes requires a defibrillator.
Cardiomegaly (enlarged heart)
The heart can be enlarged from a variety of causes including high blood pressure or blockages in the heart arteries. Some patients may have no symptoms, while others may experience difficulty breathing or leg swelling. Cardiomegaly is diagnosed with an EKG and an echocardiogram.
Cardiomyopathy is a disease that causes the heart muscle to become enlarged, thick or rigid. This condition makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body. Cardiomyopathy can be caused by a number of different factors, which may produce different symptoms and require different treatments. Although it can be a serious condition that may lead to life-threatening complications, many cases of cardiomyopathy can be effectively treated to reduce symptoms and damage.
Types of Cardiomyopathy
There are several types of cardiomyopathy which vary based on the area of the heart that they affect, the cause, and the symptoms that they produce.
Dilated cardiomyopathy is the most common type of cardiomyopathy. It involves an enlarged left ventricle and as a result, the heart weakens and is unable to pump blood to the body. Men are more likely than women to have this type of cardiomyopathy.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the abnormal growth or thickening of the heart muscle. This condition makes it more difficult for blood to leave the heart and circulate. HCM can affect people of any age and is a common cause of sudden cardiac arrest in adolescents, especially athletes.
Restrictive cardiomyopathy causes the ventricles to become stiff and rigid. It is caused by abnormal tissue, such as scar tissue, that replaces the normal heart muscle. Restrictive cardiomyopathy is more common in older adults.
Ischemic cardiomyopathy is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart with blood. As a result, walls of the heart become too thin or narrowed to pump blood effectively. Ischemic cardiomyopathy is often caused by coronary artery disease. and heart attacks.
All forms of cardiomyopathy make it harder for the heart to pump and deliver blood to the rest of the body, and without treatment, may lead to heart failure.
Cause of Cardiomyopathy
Some cases of cardiomyopathy are inherited and others may be caused by an underlying condition or other factors. Possible causes of cardiomyopathy may include:
- Coronary artery disease
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Thyroid disorders
- Viral infections that travel to the heart
- Pregnancy complications
- Chemotherapy drugs
Excessive and long-term alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, and drug abuse may also lead to cardiomyopathy. However, in many cases, the exact cause of the cardiomyopathy is unknown.
Symptoms of Cardiomyopathy
Some people with cardiomyopathy do not experience any symptoms at all. As cardiomyopathy progresses, symptoms may include:
- Swelling of legs, ankles and feet
- Abdominal bloating
- Irregular heartbeat
Symptoms of cardiomyopathy often worsen over time.
Diagnosis of Cardiomyopathy
If cardiomyopathy is suspected, the individual may be referred to a cardiologist for a thorough examination. Cardiomyopathy may be diagnosed after a physical examination and a review of symptoms. Diagnostic tests may include:
- Chest X-ray
- Cardiac MRI scan
- Cardiac catheterization
Blood tests are also administered to measure kidney function, protein and iron levels, and to look for anemia or any thyroid problems.
Treatment of Cardiomyopathy
Treatment for cardiomyopathy focuses on relieving symptoms and reducing the chance of complications. It may vary based on type of cardiomyopathy and the patient’s individual condition. Initial treatment often includes lifestyle changes and medication. Additional treatments may include:
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator
- Septal myectomy
- Coronary artery bypass
In severe cases when all other treatment has been unsuccessful, a heart transplant may be necessary. Simple lifestyle changes such as maintaining a healthy diet, exercising regularly and avoiding alcohol, drugs, and smoking, can sometimes help prevent cardiomyopathy.
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