Heart arrhythmia treatment in Idaho Falls
While some heart arrhythmias are ultimately harmless, many can carry serious consequences and are signs of serious conditions. The cardiac specialists at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center (EIRMC) are trained to diagnose and treat heart arrhythmias with the latest technologies, allowing you to rest easy.
To make an appointment or to learn more about heart arrhythmias, please call (208) 227-2778. You may pre-register online.
What is a heart arrhythmia?
A heart arrhythmia describes a misfire in the sequence of electrical impulses controlling how the heart pumps blood. When this occurs, the heart may beat irregularly, too quickly, or too slowly. As such, there are many heart arrhythmia causes, including:
- Arterial blockages
- Congenital heart abnormalities
- Drug abuse
- Excess alcohol and/or caffeine
- Heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Medications and/or supplements
- Sleep apnea
- Stress and anxiety
- Thyroid problems
Concordant with the numerous heart arrhythmia types, an irregular heartbeat can bring on a range of heart arrhythmia symptoms that may include:
- Chest pain or pressure
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near-fainting
- Fluttering or pounding in the chest
- Shortness of breath
In rare cases, arrhythmias can cause cardiac arrest, so please consult your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of these symptoms.
EIRMC offers electrophysiology (EP) services in our state-of-the-art EP lab, the only EP lab that services southeast Idaho, western Wyoming and southern Montana. EP studies are performed on patients to assess the heart's electrical system to diagnose arrhythmias. EP studies also help determine if you need medication, a pacemaker, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, cardiac ablation or heart arrhythmia surgery.
Our team is comprised of doctors, and RNs specialized in cardiac care who have been specifically trained on these procedures. An EP study measures cardiac electrical activity by inserting catheters and wire electrodes through blood vessels entering the heart.
During the EP study, an advanced GPS guidance system maps a 3D image of your heart, and your doctor sends small electrical pulses through the catheter, so your heart beats at different rhythms. The signals produced by your heart are recorded, which allows them to identify where the arrhythmias are occurring.
If it is determined that cardiac ablation is necessary, the doctor will insert another catheter that burns the problem area to restore normal heart rhythm. In some cases, it can be determined that the installation of a pacemaker is necessary.
A pacemaker is a small, battery-powered device — about the size of two stacked silver dollars — that helps regulate your heart rhythm. It is placed just below the collarbone under the skin of your chest, sending out electrical impulses that keep the heart contracting, pumping blood and beating at its proper rate.
The pacemaker continuously senses your heartbeats, pacing your heart only when it has waited a certain amount of time and your heartbeats have not occurred. It is needed when there is a problem with your heart’s electrical system, which can cause very slow heartbeats or both fast and slow heartbeats.
Some symptoms that may indicate a problem and a need for a pacemaker include:
- Blurred vision
- Fainting spells
- Shortness of breath
The device has two parts. First, the battery/timer unit, otherwise known as the pulse generator. Second, one or more electrodes and wires carry the electrical impulses to the heart. The EP services team at EIRMC navigates you through the pacemaker process, from diagnosis to installation to ongoing monitoring after you have the procedure.
Below is a guide to educate you on what to expect from getting a pacemaker.
Before pacemaker insertion
You will need to take several precautions and facts you will need to be aware of before having pacemaker surgery. These include:
- Do not eat or drink anything for several hours before surgery.
- You may be given a scrub to shower at home before you are admitted.
- Your upper chest may be shaved.
- Your skin will be numbed.
- You will get medication to relax you but not put you to sleep.
During pacemaker insertion
Having a pacemaker implant is not considered major surgery. The procedure takes about two hours and is done in the cardiac catheterization lab. The surgeon or cardiologist makes a three to four-inch incision in the upper chest area. A small pocket is made for the pacemaker to sit under the skin over a vein.
As the surgeon or cardiologist watches progress on a monitor, the wires are guided through a vein into the heart's chambers. The electrode rests directly against the heart's inner wall while the pulse generator is attached to the wires and placed in the pocket under the skin.
After pacemaker insertion
It is important to note that pacemakers do not hurt, and most patients say they cannot feel them when working. You will, however, have an incision just below the shoulder that will need to heal. If you are uncomfortable, let your nurse know, and you will be given medication to control pain.
In general use after surgery, a pacemaker's lifespan depends on the frequency of usage and how much energy is required to pace the heart. Most pacemakers can be programmed, and your doctor can adjust the pacemaker from outside of the body without surgery.
Once you get home, here are some general guidelines for life with a pacemaker:
- Do not get water on the incision for at least seven to 10 days following surgery.
- Take sponge baths for seven to 10 days.
- You will need to make an appointment to have your stitches removed.
- You may have tiny strips of tape placed over the incision instead of stitches, which can be removed if they don't wear off after a few weeks.
- If your doctor has prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed until they are gone.
- Do not lift more than five pounds.
- Do not play tennis or other vigorous activities for several weeks.
- Avoid contact sports that could result in the pacemaker being hit or crushed.
- Slow, circular arm exercises may help the soreness go away.
- Eat a balanced diet.
As with any operation, possible complications include bleeding problems or infection. Specific issues to pacemaker implants include the possibility of a wire becoming dislodged after surgery, which would require a return to the catheterization lab for repositioning.
Another possible complication is the collapse of a lung. This can happen when the wire is passed under the collarbone into the subclavian vein and the heart. Talk to your doctor about the risks of pacemaker surgery, so you are fully informed.
Call your doctor or seek medical treatment if:
- The incision is red or draining
- The incision is hot to touch or very tender
- You have a fever or any other unusual symptoms