Tachycardia (Fast Heartbeat)
What is tachycardia?
Tachycardia is an abnormally fast heartbeat. A fast heart rate is normal when you exercise. Your heart rate also increases when your body is stressed by illness, such as when an infection causes you to run a fever.
Some types of tachycardia can lead to serious symptoms and even life-threatening complications. For example, uncontrolled tachycardia can make your blood pressure so low that your body doesn't get enough oxygen.
Your Lee Health treatment team will include doctors trained in diseases of the heart and heart surgery. The team will consider your wishes as you and your doctor decide together on the most appropriate treatment.
What are the symptoms?
Your doctor may ask you whether you have been diagnosed with any conditions that can trigger your rapid heartbeat, such as coronary artery disease or a thyroid problem.
Most common tests for tachycardia are:
- Electrocardiogram (ECG). In this test, your doctor puts sensor patches with wires attached (electrodes) on your skin to measure the timing and duration of each electrical phase in your heartbeat.
- Echocardiogram. Your doctor puts a device (transducer) on your chest, and sound waves bounce off your heart and produce video images of your heart's size, structure and motion.
- Coronary angiogram. To get a detailed look inside the blood vessels of your heart, the doctor injects a dye that shows up on an x-ray and then makes a series of x-ray images.
- Blood tests. These tests help identify thyroid problems or other blood chemistry abnormalities that may lead to tachycardia.
- Stress test. To find out if exercise triggers or worsens your tachycardia, you will exercise on a treadmill or stationary bicycle while your doctor closely watches your heart activity with an electrocardiogram (ECG).
- Electrophysiology (EP) testing and mapping. This test involves threading thin, flexible tubes (catheters) with electrodes at the tips through your blood vessels into your heart to precisely map the spread of electrical impulses through your heart.
- Holter monitor Your doctor may ask you to wear this portable ECG device for a day or more to record your heart's electrical activity.
- Event monitor. If your irregular heartbeats come and go from time to time, your doctor may ask you to wear a portable ECG event monitor at home that you start when symptoms occur. You also may have an implanted recorder.
How is it treated?
If you have tachycardia, your treatment team will work with you to offer appropriate treatment options that can restore your heart to normal rhythm, regulate your heart rate and prevent blood clots.
Your treatment will depend on the specific type of tachycardia you have and may include:
- Medication. Your doctor may prescribe drugs alone or in combination with other treatments. You may need a medicine that slows your heart rate, restores normal rhythm, prevents blood clots or thins your blood.
- Implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). If you're diagnosed with ventricular tachycardia, your doctor may recommend an implantable cardioverter defibrillator. This small device monitors your heart's rhythm and delivers bursts of electrical energy to restore a normal heart rhythm.
- Catheter radiofrequency ablation. In cardiac catheter ablation you get a mild sedative and a local anesthetic. Then your doctor threads thin, flexible tubes (catheters) through your blood vessels. Radiofrequency energy given through the catheter removes abnormal tissue.
- Open-heart maze procedure. If you have atrial fibrillation—the most common kind of tachycardia—your doctor may recommend a maze procedure to regulate your heartbeat.
- Follow-up care. If you're recovering from heart surgery or medical device implantation, your doctor may recommend cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation consists of monitored exercise sessions during your recovery period.
What is Lee Health's approach?
Lee Health has extensive expertise in diagnosing and treating tachycardias using the latest technique appropriate for each individual.
Our integrated team includes doctors trained in medical and surgical diagnosis and treatment for diseases of the heart including, cardiologists, electrophysiologists, and cardiac and cardiovascular surgeons.