Arrhythmia or Rapid Heart Rate

Chest | Cardiology | Arrhythmia or Rapid Heart Rate (Symptom)


Arrhythmia is characterized by an abnormal heartbeat, either too fast or too slow. An arrhythmia occurs when the hearts electrical impulses are disrupted.

Arrhythmia can take several forms:

(1) Tachycardia: A fast heart rhythm with a rate of more than 100 beats per minute.

(2) Bradycardia: A slow heart rhythm with a rate below 60 beats per minute.

(3) Supraventricular arrhythmias, that begin in the atria - the heart’s upper chambers.

(4) Ventricular arrhythmias, that begin in the ventricles - the heart’s lower chambers

(5) Bradyarrhythmias: Slow heart rhythms that may be caused by disease in the heart’s conduction system, such as the sinoatrial (SA) node, atrioventricular (AV) node or HIS-Purkinje network.


The following conditions may cause an arrhythmia: scarring of heart tissue from a previous heart attack, medications, previous heart trauma or congenital abnormalities, changes to heart's structure, such as from cardiomyopathy, blocked arteries in the heart (known as coronary artery disease), high blood pressure, Diabetes, Hyperthyroidism, smoking, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine, drug abuse, stress or electrical shock.

Arrhythmia can occur without any sign or symptom, but when these exist it can include: a fluttering in the chest, chest pain, shortness of breath, lightheadedness, dizziness or even fainting (syncope). In some cases, this signs can indicate a more serious condition.

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose a heart arrhythmia the doctor may perform several tests such as: Electrocardiogram (ECG), Holter monitor (portable ECG device), Event monitor (for sporadic arrhythmias), Echocardiogram, Cardiac computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Treatment may or may not be necessary. It is usually required only if the arrhythmia is causing significant symptoms or if it is putting the patient at risk of a more serious arrhythmia or arrhythmia complication. Treatment depends of the type of arrhythmia and involves medication, therapy, life-style changes, use of an implantable device or surgery in more serious cases.