Ventricular arrhythmias are the most common cause of cardiac-related deaths. As a doctor, you can help improve your cardiac patients' overall health. You can help them decrease their chance of death with a proper diagnosis. A proper diagnosis gives patients the tools needed to make healthy lifestyle changes.
Continue reading to learn more about diagnosing ventricular arrhythmias in the cardiology community. We'll also recommend the reference manuals you might use along with diagnostic testing.
1. Understanding Ventricular Arrhythmias
There are two main types of ventricular arrhythmias that your patients might be suffering from. They are ventricular tachycardia (VT) and ventricular fibrillation (VF). Both of these disorders of the heart can be dangerous and ultimately life-threatening when they go untreated.
VT occurs when electrical signals are sent from the heart's lower chambers (ventricles) at a more rapid pace than normal. Increased periods of tachycardia mean that cardiac patients might experience symptoms including:
The sudden drops in blood pressure and the lack of oxygen to the brain can result in fainting and loss of consciousness during a VT episode.
Ventricular fibrillation also refers to a faster heart rhythm, however, they are erratic. This prevents the ventricle from filling with blood. As a result, the heart can't pump blood to the rest of the body (including the brain). This misfiring of the heart may cause the loss of consciousness and the loss of pulse.
2. Knowing the Possible Causes of Arrhythmia
There are several factors (both internal and external) that may cause arrhythmias. Your patients might have underlying heart problems like cardiovascular disease and cardiomyopathy. They might have heart inflammation or infections that can affect their heart rhythms.
The use of toxins and stimulants can also cause you to develop an issue with the heart. Things like alcohol, cocaine, and even OTC drugs can cause a reaction in the body.
Genetics can also cause ventricular arrhythmias and other heart problems to develop in seemingly healthy individuals. Certain health conditions (i.e., hyperthyroidism) can increase your risk of developing an arrhythmia. The patients' lifestyle can also impact their risk of cardiac events occurring.
3. Testing and Monitoring Heart Rhythms
When diagnosing a possible arrhythmia, a cardiologist will perform a physical evaluation. They will look for physical signs that a heart problem exists. A cardiologist will check the patient's blood pressure and listen for heart murmurs.
A cardiologist will also review the patient's medical history. They will inquire about their family history. If it's a genetic disorder, a cardiologist may recommend testing for the patient's family members.
An electrocardiogram (ECG) is done during abnormal heart activity. This is to get an accurate reading of the arrhythmia. A cardiologist will read the ECG interpretations to determine what type of arrhythmia their patients might have.
You can learn more about ECG interpretations in this Medical Creations textbook.
Ultrasounds and MRIs can be used to give the cardiologist a clearer view of the condition of the patient's heart.
When further testing is required, a cardiologist may suggest that their patients wear a Holter monitor. These are heart monitors that record heart activity for a few days. This data is then sent to the cardiologist who can examine the sample for irregularities.
Physical activity may cause heart patients to experience the symptoms of their heart condition. This is where the exercise stress test and tilt table test come into play.
An exercise stress test monitors heart activity while the patient walks on a treadmill or rides a stationary bike. The tilt table test monitors how their heart is affected while laying down and standing up.
An EP study is an invasive procedure that involves the placement of pacing wires into the heart. The wires enter the heart through blood vessels. This test allows a heart doctor to evaluate the electrical system within the heart.
Echocardiograms (also known as echo) use sound waves to evaluate the structure and function of heart muscles and valves.
All of these things work together to give a cardiologist the proper diagnosis for their patients.
4. Treating Heart Arrhythmia
Some of your patients may not require a heart arrhythmia treatment. As a doctor, you may find that the best thing for your patients is having them attend regular arrhythmia checkups. This can help to ensure the condition is not getting worse over time.
However, other patients may need to take medication to get back on track. Patients may need therapies (like vagal maneuvers) to recover from cardiac activity. Cardioversions and catheter procedures may also be necessary.
Some patients may need heart surgery to prevent further cardiac events from occurring. You might recommend:
- Catheter ablation
- Pacemaker insertion
- Coronary bypass surgery
It is your responsibility to weigh the risks and benefits of major surgery to treat arrhythmia. You need to do your research before presenting these options to your patients.
Your patients may find relief from a heart condition with lifestyle changes and alternative medicine. A healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce the chance of cardiac arrest. Yoga and meditation can help alleviate the stress of everyday life as well as the strain that stress places on the heart.
Diagnosing Ventricular Arrhythmias
The process that goes into diagnosing ventricular arrhythmias helps cardiologists help their patients. You should consider reading Medical Creations' book about EKG/ECG interpretations. It can help you understand how to read ECGs to determine and diagnose arrhythmias.
For more information on ECG interpretations and how they are used in the diagnostic process surrounding heart arrhythmias, check out our best-selling ECG book on Amazon by clicking here!