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Atrial Tachycardia

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Atrial tachycardia (AT) is a condition that causes your heart to beat 100 to 300 times each minute. A normal heart rate at rest is 60 to 80 beats each minute. AT develops because of problems with your heart's electrical system. Your atria (top chambers) may send electrical signals that increase your heart rate, or the pathway of the electrical signal may be blocked. Your heart keeps sending signals to try to get past the block.


WHILE YOU ARE HERE:

Informed consent

is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that you may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done. Make sure all your questions are answered.

An IV

is a small tube placed in your vein that is used to give you medicine or liquids.

Heart monitor:

This is also called an ECG or EKG. Sticky pads placed on your skin record your heart's electrical activity.

Medicines:

  • Antiarrhythmias: These help slow your heartbeat and make it more normal.
  • Beta blockers: These help keep your heartbeat in a regular rhythm.
  • Calcium channel blockers: These help slow your heartbeat.
  • Blood thinners: These help prevent blood clots. Clots can lead to stroke, heart attack, and death. Aspirin is a type of blood thinner. You may need to take an aspirin each day to help prevent blood clots. Do not take acetaminophen or ibuprofen instead. Do not take more or less aspirin than healthcare providers say to take. If you are on other blood thinner medicine, ask your healthcare provider before you take aspirin for any reason.
  • Electrolytes: You may be given electrolytes in the hospital if an electrolyte imbalance caused your AT.

Tests:

  • Blood tests: You may need blood taken to give caregivers information about how your body is working. The blood may be taken from your hand, arm, or IV.
  • Electrophysiologic study: An electrophysiologic study is used to chart the electrical pathways in your heart that control your heartbeat. Wires are guided through a blood vessel in your arm, neck, chest, or groin to your heart. Readings are taken through the wires. Your healthcare provider can also use these wires to trigger your heart rhythm problem.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.
  • ECG: This is also called an EKG. An ECG is done to check for damage or problems in your heart. A short period of electrical activity in your heart is recorded. Lie as still as possible during the test.
  • Atrial electrograms: Atrial electrograms are ECG recordings taken from temporary wires attached to your atria during heart surgery. The wires are connected to a monitor and show your heart's atrial activity. This test is done if healthcare providers believe you are having AT after heart surgery.
  • Exercise stress test: An exercise stress test helps healthcare providers see the changes that take place in your heart during exercise. The test is done while you ride an exercise bike or walk on a treadmill. Healthcare providers will ask if you have chest pain or trouble breathing during the test.

Treatment:

  • Vagal maneuvers: Vagal maneuvers (methods) can help slow the impulse from your atria to your ventricle and stop your AT. An example of a vagal maneuver is putting your face in ice cold water. Your healthcare provider may teach you other vagal maneuvers to do on your own when you have an episode of AT.
  • Cardioversion: This is a procedure where an electric shock is given to your heart. The shock is usually given through paddles or sticky patches placed on your chest or back. The shock helps your heart return to a normal beat. Cardioversion may be needed if medicine does not make your heart work better. You may need a cardioversion if your heart rhythm is making you sick or is dangerous. You may be given medicine to help you relax before getting the electric shock. If the shock works, your heart rate and rhythm will return to normal. Medicine may be needed to keep your heart in a normal rhythm. You may need a cardioversion more than once.
  • Cardiac ablation: Cardiac ablation is a procedure that uses heat energy to stop abnormal heart impulses. A wire is guided to your heart through an artery or a vein. Your healthcare provider finds the area of the heart that is causing the problems and applies heat energy to it. This may help your heart beat in a more regular rhythm.
  • Pacemaker: This is a machine that helps your heart beat at a normal speed and in a regular rhythm. If your heart does not beat as it should, the pacemaker sends small electric signals to your heart. You may feel these signals.
    • Temporary: Large patches are placed on your chest and back. The patches are connected to a monitor. Your healthcare provider may need to put small wires through your skin and into your heart muscle instead. The wires are connected to a small pacemaker box outside of your body.
    • Permanent: A permanent pacemaker is about the size of a wristwatch. It is implanted under the skin of your chest.
  • Surgery: You may need surgery if other treatments do not work to stop your AT.

RISKS:

  • Medicines to treat your AT may cause your heart to beat too slowly or your blood pressure to drop. Certain medicines may cause other types of heartbeat problems. Cardiac ablation can cause you to bleed, bruise, or get an infection where the wire was put in. Even after treatment, your AT and symptoms may return, and you may need more treatments.
  • Without treatment, your symptoms may get worse. Your heart may not be able to pump enough blood to supply oxygen to the rest of your body. You may get a blood clot The clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. A blood clot can cause you to have a stroke. Your heart may weaken and not work properly. You are also at a higher risk for a heart attack and heart failure.

CARE AGREEMENT:

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.

© 2016 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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