Occasionally your heart skips a beat, beats rapidly or flutters. This is often a random, momentary glitch. But it can also represent an irregular heart rhythm, a condition called arrhythmia.
Arrhythmias are fairly common, especially as you age. Many are not worrisome. But others can cause symptoms and interfere with your daily activities. Some can even trigger stroke or the sudden loss of heart function, known as cardiac arrest. Arrhythmias are the leading cause of sudden cardiac death, with 400,000 victims a year.
Heart Arrhythmia Types
There are three types of arrhythmias, based on how the heart is beating:
- Too slowly (bradycardia): less than 60 beats per minute
- Too rapidly (tachycardia): more than 100 beats per minute
- Erratically (fibrillation)
Our electrophysiology team treats the full spectrum of arrhythmias, including those that are less common or less likely to cause serious problems — though complications are still possible from some if left untreated. These include:
- Atrial flutter
- Heart block
- Multifocal Atrial Tachycardia (MAT)
- Premature Atrial Contraction (PAC)
- Sick Sinus Syndrome
- Ventricular tachycardia
A number of medical offices care for the more common types of arrhythmia and offer basic therapies like medications or pacemakers. But we offer a comprehensive range of services for all arrhythmias — including those associated with complex congenital heart disease.
Our program features:
To make an appointment,
- Established experience: Our arrhythmia doctors (electrophysiologists) have a long track record of treating complex arrhythmias, including atrial fibrillation, atrial tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia. Accurately diagnosing arrhythmia requires a developed sense of clinical judgment and practice.
- World-leading imaging: We are world-recognized for incorporating 3D imaging into treatment planning for complex arrhythmias like ventricular tachycardia (v-tach). Learn more about our 3D imaging and v-tach ablation.
- Pediatric Care: Our center is one of the few in the region with an electrophysiologist specializing in pediatric care.
- Dedicated labs: Unlike many medical offices that offer limited arrhythmia care, we have electrophysiology labs where we provide the full range of tests and treatments, including second opinions. In addition to inpatient care, we offer outpatient practices in several locations. Learn more about our EP labs.
At the University of Maryland Heart and Vascular Center, our patients have access to the very latest diagnostic technology and doctors who have spent years refining the clinical judgment needed to make the right evaluation. Learn more about cardiac diagnosis.
Our doctors will confirm or rule out the possibility of an arrhythmia and its suspected causes. We offer this service in two fully equipped electrophysiology (EP) exam suites — one of the few centers in the region to offer such a specialized, comprehensive facility. Learn more about our EP labs.
Some arrhythmias only require regular checkups, while our team treats others with lifestyle changes or medications — either approved drugs or those in clinical trials. We offer a full range of therapies and services when further intervention is necessary:
- Atrial fibrillation stroke prevention: Our minimally invasive procedures can reduce stroke risk for atrial fibrillation patients who cannot take blood thinners. Learn more about atrial fibrillation and atrial fibrillation stroke prevention.
- Cardioversion: For some patients, we can provide a brief external shock that safely resets the heart’s rhythm. Learn more about cardioversion.
- Catheter ablation: Minimally invasive procedures can reduce or stop the faulty signaling involved with some arrhythmias. When appropriate, we can even offer ablation for complex arrhythmias, with our 3-D imaging for such cases recognized worldwide. Learn more about catheter ablation.
- Cryomaze ablation: We can also fix distorted signaling by freezing abnormal cells during surgery — an advance over the previous method of making incisions. Learn more about cryomaze ablation.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators (ICDs) and pacemakers: Our team has extensive experience implanting devices to pace the heart or shock it back into normal operation. We offer options not widely available, conduct research and troubleshoot devices. Learn more about ICDs and pacemakers.
- Pediatric care: There are only a handful of electrophysiologists in the state offering pediatric care, including the specialist in our program who cares for children and teens.
- Research: We have brought together a unique group of specialists from the disciplines of electrophysiology, cardiology, radiology, engineering and computer science. Called the Maryland Arrhythmia and Cardiac Imaging Group (MACIG), this group is focused on developing new solutions to improve the diagnosis and treatment of arrhythmia.
Treatment and services are provided in inpatient units, outpatient practices or one of our comprehensive electrophysiology (EP) labs — specialized facilities that only a few centers in the region offer. Learn more about our EP labs.