The right heart beat

MIND THE RHYTHM

The right heart beat

Heart rhythm disorders, also called cardiac arrhythmias, occur when there is a malfunction in the heart’s electrical activity. As a result, the heart can beat too quickly, too slowly or irregularly. Arrhythmias could be indicative of an underlying heart condition and a misdiagnosis could prove to be life-threatening.

Diagnosing an arrhythmia and its cause may be delayed or missed in cases where the symptoms may not be too severe. In addition, some symptoms of arrhythmia, such as palpitations and light-headedness are similar to symptoms of other conditions like stress, anxiety, panic attack or perimenopause.

However, in cases where a patient experiences recurrent fainting, palpitations, unexplained stroke, arrhythmias can be serious and potentially life-threatening. A wrong diagnosis may lead to unnecessary or delayed treatments, physical and emotional suffering, and could be a threat to patient safety.

Often, the symptoms are not persistent and may not occur in the presence of a doctor, making it difficult to diagnose. An External Cardiac Monitor (ECM) has the capability to monitor a patient’s heart rate for up to 30 days. These devices monitor, record and store cardiac data - a very convenient tool to use.

It is stuck on the patient’s chest and the patient can do all activities without any hindrance. In case an abnormal rhythm is detected, it is immediately transmitted to the patient’s doctor and s/he will be called for a follow-up. Thus, there is a higher chance of providing a more accurate diagnosis to patients with infrequent symptoms.

Importance of monitoring

Because abnormal heart rhythms and their accompanying cardiac symptoms often come and go in a transient manner, they may be difficult to detect.

Tests such as ECG (electrocardiogram) only allow a physician to look at the heart’s activity at one point in time, and a patient may be at risk for future symptoms or events that were not detected at the time the test was administered.

To determine the cause of recurrent fainting, palpitations or unexplained stroke, a patient’s heart must be monitored over time so that the physician can diagnose the disorder accurately.

ECM is a simple and convenient tool that monitors the patient’s heart activity continuously and immediately alerts the doctor in case of a rhythm disturbance.

Accurate and timely diagnosis ofarrhythmias is crucial to direct therapies that can make a significant impact on patient care. It can be a life-saving measure.

(The author is senior consultant electrophysiologist, Fortis Escorts Heart Institute, New Delhi)

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