The heart has its own electrical system that tells it to beat. An arrhythmia is an abnormal electrical path in the heart which makes the heart beat either too fast or too slow. This can cause the heart to pump less effectively.
Abnormal heart rhythms occur in many people who do not have heart disease. Heart rhythm problems can result in a slow heartbeat (bradyarrythmia) or a fast heartbeat (tachyarrhythmia). An electrophysiologist is a heart rhythm specialist and may need to be consulted if the problem is serious. Symptoms of a rhythm problem can include a racing heart, fainting, trouble breathing or a change in color (looking pale or gray). Common tests to diagnose an arrhythmia include an:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Holter study to watch for the problem over 24 hours
- Exercise stress test to watch for problems during exercise)
- An electrophysiology study (see animated video below)
Normal heart – in a healthy heart with proper blood flow, the blue droplets representing oxygen-poor blood travel to the lungs, and the red oxygen-rich droplets circulate through the body.
A heart undergoing an electrophysiology study to diagnose an arrhythmia.