• Alternative Names

    Dysrhythmias; Abnormal heart rhythms; Bradycardia; Tachycardia


    When an arrhythmia is serious, you may need urgent treatment to restore a normal rhythm. This may include:

    • Electrical "shock" therapy (defibrillation or cardioversion)
    • Implanting a temporary pacemaker to interrupt the arrhythmia
    • Medications given through a vein (intravenous)

    Sometimes, getting better treatment for your angina or heart failure will decrease the chance of having an arrhythmia.

    Medications may be used to prevent an arrhythmia from happening again, or to keep your heart rate from becoming too fast or too slow. These are called anti-arrhythmic drugs.

    Some of these medicines can have side effects. Not all arrhythmias respond well to medications.

    Cardiac ablation is a procedure used to destroy areas in your heart that may be causing your heart rhythm problems. Ablate means "to destroy."

    An implantable cardiac defibrillator is placed in people who are at high risk of sudden cardiac death.

    • You may need a defibrillator if you have had life-threatening bouts of ventricular tachycardia (VT) or ventricular fibrillation (VF), or if your heart is weakened, too large, and does not pump blood very well.
    • As soon as arrhythmia begins, the ICD sends a shock to stop it, or a burst of pacing.

    Pacemakers may be used for people who have heart problems that cause their heart to beat too slowly (bradycardia). Some pacemakers can be used to stop a heart rate that is too fast (tachycardia) or irregular.

    Support Groups

    Expectations (prognosis)

    The outcome depends on several factors:

    • The kind of arrhythmia -- whether it is supraventricular tachycardia, or a more dangerous arrhythmia such as ventricular tachycardia or ventricular fibrillation
    • The overall pumping ability of the heart (ejection fraction)
    • Whether you have heart disease (coronary artery disease, heart failure, valvular heart disease) and how well it can be treated

    Some types of arrhythmias may be life-threatening if not promptly and properly treated.

    With bradycardias treated with a permanent pacemaker, the outlook is usually good.

    • Angina
    • Heart attack
    • Heart failure
    • Stroke
    • Sudden death

    Calling your health care provider

    Call your health care provider if:

    • You develop any of the symptoms of a possible arrhythmia
    • You have been diagnosed with an arrhythmia and your symptoms worsen or do not improve with treatment