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Arrhythmias of the Heart

February 28, 2023
Doctor uses stethoscope to examine patient's heartbeat.

February is Heart Month, the perfect time to learn more about your heart and its rhythms. In this article, MUSC Health Florence Cardiologist Dr. Parinita Dherange explains cardiac arrhythmia, ventricular arrhythmia, and ventricular tachycardia — the arrhythmias of the heart.

What is cardiac arrhythmia?

Dr. Parinita Dherange 
Dr. Parinita Dherange

Cardiac arrhythmias are irregular and abnormal heart rhythms. Depending on the type, location of origin and symptoms present, cardiac arrhythmias have a wide range of clinical significance.

Arrhythmias originating from the upper chambers of the heart (atria) are referred to as supraventricular arrhythmias. The most common atrial arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation (also called Afib or AF) which is an irregular rhythm, often rapid, that can result in heart palpitations, dizziness, shortness of breath or fatigue.

In atrial fibrillation, the normal cycle of electrical impulses in the heart is interrupted, and this leads to a fast, chaotic heart rhythm with poor movement of blood from the atria to the lower chambers (ventricles). Afib, if untreated, can lead to stroke and other serious medical complications.

What is ventricular arrhythmia?

Ventricular arrhythmias arise from the lower chambers of the heart called the ventricles. The most common ventricular arrhythmias include premature ventricular contractions (also called PVCs).

PVCs are fairly common in healthy individuals and can be brought on by various stimuli, including excessive caffeine intake or stress. Often the symptoms include skipped heartbeats or irregular heartbeats. PVCs usually aren’t harmful unless they repeatedly happen for months or years. It can cause heart muscle weakening, also called cardiomyopathy.

What is ventricular tachycardia?

Ventricular tachycardia, also called Vtach, is a sudden onset rapid heart rate and can lead to light-headedness, fainting, weakness, mental confusion or even sudden cardiac death. Vtach, unlike PVCs, is a serious arrhythmia. It is often associated with underlying heart disease and requires urgent treatment.

It is important to listen to your own body. Be mindful of any unusual symptoms and seek prompt and timely medical help in order to avoid any catastrophe.

Dr. Parinita Dherange is a cardiac electrophysiologist at MUSC Health Florence Medical Center. For more information or to discuss any symptoms that could be cardiac arrhythmia, please call (843) 674-4787 to make an appointment.

Learn more about our services at the MUSC Health Heart & Vascular Center.