Tests for Arrhythmia

This article will highlight some tests for arrhythmia. An arrhythmia occurs when there is an abnormality in the heartbeat. This abnormality may cause the heartbeat to be too fast, too slow or irregular. Arrhythmias make the heart to work more than it normally would, to supply the body with sufficient blood. Those who have arrhythmias may feel dizzy, lightheaded or faint. Some arrhythmias may be potentially fatal while others are basically harmless. When severe, an arrhythmia can cause the heart to arrest. Several tests for arrhythmia are employed by physicians to make a diagnosis of arrhythmias.

ELECTROCARDIOGRAM (ECG)

An electrocardiogram is one of the tests for arrhythmia. It is a test used by physicians to get an idea of the electrical activities in the heart. It is conveniently done in a doctor’s office by placing electrodes or patches on different regions of the chest, arms and legs. These electrodes take recording of the electrical activity in the heart and make a picture of it. The picture is then assessed by a doctor to check for any cardiac abnormality. It is an easy test that is not time consuming nor painful.

UNDERSTANDING ECG: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO 12-LEAD EKG INTERPRETATION

EVENT MONITORS AND DEVICES

Event monitors and devices are used to conduct tests for arrhythmia. It is difficult to determine when an arrhythmia will occur as it can occur at any time. An ECG just charts the heart’s activity at the moment it is performed. It may be necessary to keep track of the heart over a longer period and so monitors are designed to be worn for longer periods and they include:

HOLTER MONITOR

This takes a recording of the electrical activities in the heart within 24 to 48 hours. It is similar to an ECG because electrodes or patches are also placed on the body to keep track of the rhythm of the heart which will serve as a representative of what is going on in the heart.

EVENT MONITORS

For those whose symptoms do not occur often or those who cannot access a doctor in time, they can utilize an event monitor to help in the recording of their symptoms. Event monitors can either be the symptom event monitor or the looping memory monitors. These are the two major monitors available. They are both portable and can be carried around. The symptom event monitor is shaped like a bracelet or a handheld machine that has tiny metal discs functioning as electrodes. When the symptoms of arrhythmia occur such as feeling faint or lightheaded, dizziness or an abnormal heartbeat, a button is pushed on the device to take a recording of the event.

The looping memory monitor on-the-other-hand is as wide as a pager. It has electrodes which are connected to the monitor every time and this is how it connects to the body. It has a timer where the duration for a session of monitoring can be preset and via this configuration, an ECG recording is enabled once activated. The information gotten is saved in the recorder so the doctor can analyze later on.

IMPLANTABLE LOOP RECORDERS

Just like an event monitor, it records the electrical activity in the heart but the only difference is that it is inserted beneath the skin. It can be programmed either by the doctor or the patient to take the record of arrhythmia when it occurs or the device can be triggered to start recording with a remote.

OTHER TESTS FOR ARRHYTHMIA

Other tests for arrhythmia can also be done to check what kind of arrhythmia it is or the likely cause of anarrhythmia. They include:

STRESS TEST

To know if an arrhythmia is associated with exertion, an exercise stress test is done. This test shows the performance of the heart when it is under stress or during exercise. It is a frequent test carried out by attaching electrodes on the body like that which is done for an ECG and asking the person to either run on a treadmill or pedal a cycle-ergometer for a duration when the heart is being monitored.

For those who are not fit enough to perform this exercise, medications will be given to them to increase the heart rate to such a level as exercise would and the heart is then monitored using an ECG or Echocardiogram.

TILT TABLE

This is mainly for those who experience fainting often as part of their symptoms. For this test, you will lie flat on a table and the doctor records your heart rate and blood pressure. The doctor then slowly lifts the table upwards to a 90 degrees position and also records the blood pressure and heart rate while changing the position of the table. The doctor can also administer drugs through the intravenous route to check the response of the heart in certain conditions. This test lasts for about 60 minutes.

ELECTRO-PHYSIOLOGICAL STUDIES

It is an invasive procedure that is majorly indicated for those who have had a cardiac arrest or a rapid increase in the heart rate. It is achieved by inserting a small wire electrodes into the veins and advancing to the heart to study its rhythm.

ESOPHAGEAL ELECTROPHYSIOLOGIC PROCEDURE

Since the esophagus is nearer to the upper chambers of the heart, taking a record of the hearts rhythm at that point can be more accurate than a normal ECG. This test is performed by inserting a soft, narrow, plastic tube up to the nostrils and down to the esophagus.

TRANSTHORACIC ECHOCARDIOGRAPHY (TTE) AND ECHOCARDIOGRAMS

Here, sound waves are utilized to get a picture of the heart. The size, structure, and functionality of the heart are assessed. A transducer is lubricated and moved around the chest to image certain regions of the heart.

BLOOD TESTING

Apart from monitoring the heart, the doctor can request for blood tests that show the electrolyte level, these electrolytes are mainly sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium which play a critical role in the electrical activity of the heart. Additionally, blood carbon dioxide and cholesterol levels may also be checked.

TEST RESULTS

The results of the tests that were conducted will be shared with you by a doctor. More tests may be ordered to be able to conclude on diagnosis and create a treatment plan for you. Feel free to ask any questions to clear your doubts and discuss the results and the modalities of treatment with the doctor.

OUTLOOK

Majority of cases of arrhythmias are not harmful but few other cases may be harmful and even potentially fatal. Immediately you experience the symptoms of arrhythmia, see a doctor because early diagnosis and treatment of an arrhythmia can allow you to live a normal and fulfilling life. The earlier the diagnosis is established, the sooner treatment can be initiated. The treatment can be through medications, surgery, alternative treatment or a combination of these modalities.

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