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Health Information For Parents
is an abnormal heartbeat. Most arrythmias are caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart.
The heart normally beats in a consistent pattern, but an arrhythmia can make it beat too slowly, too quickly, or irregularly. This erratic pumping can lead to a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, dizziness, and chest pain.
Many arrhythmias don’t need medical care, but some can pose a health problem and need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor.
A unique electrical conduction system in the heart causes it to beat in its regular rhythm.
The electrical signals start from a group of cells called the sinus node, located in the right atrium. The sinus node acts as the heart’s pacemaker and makes sure the heart is beating at a normal and consistent rate. The sinus node normally speeds up the heart rate in response to things like exercise, emotions, and stress, and slows the heart rate during sleep.
But sometimes the electrical signals don’t “communicate” properly with the heart muscle, and the heart can start beating in an abnormal rhythm — this is an arrhythmia (also called dysrhythmia).
Arrhythmias also can be due to chemical imbalances in the blood; infections; diseases that irritate the heart; medicines (prescription, over-the-counter, and some herbal remedies); injuries to the heart from chest trauma or heart surgery; use of illegal drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; caffeine; and stress.
Arrhythmias can be temporary or permanent. An arrhythmia can be congenital (meaning a baby is born with it) or happen later.
Arrhythmias make the heart beat less effectively, interrupting blood flow to the brain and the rest of the body. When the heart beats too fast, its chambers can’t fill with enough blood. When it beats too slowly or irregularly, it can’t pump enough blood out to the body.
If the body doesn’t get the supply of blood it needs to run smoothly, a person might have:
Arrhythmias can be constant, but most come and go at random. Some cause no detectable symptoms at all. In these cases, the arrhythmia is only found during a physical examination or a heart function test.
Heart rate is measured by counting the number of beats per minute. Someone’s normal heart rate depends on things like the person’s age and whether he or she leads an active lifestyle.
The resting heart rate decreases as kids get older. Typical normal resting heart rate ranges are:
A doctor can determine whether a heart rate is abnormally fast or slow, depending on a person’s situation. An older child or adult with a slow heart rate, for example, might have symptoms when the heart rate drops below 50 beats per minute. But trained athletes have a lower resting heart rate, so a slow heart rate in them isn’t considered abnormal if it causes no symptoms.
There are many types of arrhythmias, including:
Premature contractions are usually considered minor arrhythmias. The person may feel a fluttering or pounding in the chest caused by an early or extra beat. PACs and PVCs are very common, and are what happens when it feels like your heart “skips” a beat. Actually, the heart doesn’t skip a beat — an extra beat comes sooner than normal. Occasional premature beats are common and considered normal, but in some cases they can be a sign of an underlying medical problem or heart condition.
A tachycardia is an abnormally fast heartbeat. Tachycardias fall into two major categories — supraventricular and ventricular:
A bradycardia is an abnormally slow heartbeat. Bradycardias can be due to:
Doctors use several tools to diagnose arrhythmias. It’s very important to know a child’s medical history and give this information to the doctor. The doctor will use the medical history, along with a physical exam, to begin the evaluation.
If an arrhythmia is suspected, the doctor will order an electrocardiogram (EKG) to measure the heart’s electrical activity. For this painless test, the child will lie down and have small metal tabs (called electrodes) fixed to the skin with sticky papers. The electrodes have wires attached to them, which connect to the EKG machine. The electrical signals from the heart are then briefly recorded, usually for just 10 seconds. This information is sent to a computer, where it’s interpreted and drawn as a graph.
These types of EKG tests might be recommended:
The two kinds of Holter monitoring are: continuous recording, which means the EKG is on throughout the entire monitoring period; and event monitoring, which means data is recorded only when the child feels symptoms and then turns the Holter monitor on.
Many arrhythmias don’t need treatment. For those that do, these options might be used:
Many arrhythmias are minor and aren’t a significant health threat. But some can indicate a more serious problem. If your child has symptoms of an arrhythmia, call your doctor.
Your heart beats and sends oxygen throughout your entire body. Find out how it works and how heart problems can be fixed.
Arrhythmias are abnormal heartbeats usually caused by an electrical “short circuit” in the heart. Many are minor and not a significant health threat, but others can indicate a more serious problem.
Doctors use cardiac catheterization to gather information about the heart and blood vessels as well as treat certain heart conditions. Find out what’s involved.
Getting an EKG doesn’t hurt and it gives doctors important info about how your heart is beating. Watch what happens in this video for kids.
This video shows what it’s like to have an electrocardiogram (EKG for short).
Everyone’s heart makes sounds, but some people have hearts that make more noise than others. Usually, however, these heart murmurs don’t mean anything is wrong. Find out more about these mysterious murmurs.
When someone has coarctation of the aorta, that person’s aorta (the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body) is narrowed at some point.
Heart murmurs are very common, and most are no cause for concern and won’t affect a child’s health.
Heart defects happen when there’s a problem with a baby’s heart development during pregnancy. Most heart defects can be treated during infancy.
Coarctation of the aorta (COA) is a narrowing of the aorta, the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body.
This minimally invasive procedure helps doctors performÂ diagnostic tests on the heart and even treat some heart conditions.
Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) is a very common heart condition, but it isn’t a critical heart problem or a sign of other serious medical conditions.
Atrial septal defect (ASD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a type of congenital heart defect. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
Atrial septal defect, or ASD, is a heart defect that some people are born with. Most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications.
Ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a heart condition that a few teens can have. Find out what it is, how it happens, and what doctors do to correct it.
Ventricular septal defect (VSD) â also known as a “hole in the heart” â is a congenital heart defect. Most VSDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.
The heart and circulatory system (also called the cardiovascular system) make up the network that delivers blood to the body’s tissues.
Is your child scheduled to have an ECG? Find out how this test is performed and when you can expect the results.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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