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Chaotic heart rhythms on the rise

Y. Mallikarjun

90 per cent of the cases can be controlled by medication


Atria fails to pump blood effectively leading to formation of clots

If untreated, it could lead to heart failure and a paralytic stroke


HYDERABAD: With life expectancy going up, atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter, two types of irregular heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias), associated with paralytic stroke, are on the rise among people above 50 years.

However, the good news is that in 90 per cent of the cases the “chaotic heart rhythm” caused by atrial fibrillation could be controlled by medication, according to Dr. C. Narasimhan, organising secretary, Indian Heart Rhythm Society and consultant cardiologist CARE Hospitals. In the remaining 10 per cent, catheter ablation, an invasive procedure to cauterise the scarred tissue that causes the arrhythmia would be an effective therapy.

Talking to The Hindu, Dr. Narasimhan, a leading electrophysicist in the country, said that as a result of irregular heart beats arising from the upper chamber of the heart, the atria fails to pump blood effectively leading to formation of clots in the heart. If untreated, it could lead to heart failure and a paralytic stroke. Patients with high blood pressure and those with heart disease were at a greater risk of developing atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter, “ These are the commonest arrhythmia in old people”, he added. During the course of aging, the atrium becomes stiff and some of the muscle gets scarred. As a result, the electrical impulses do not get conducted through that portion.

Another type of arrhythmia—supra ventricular tachycardia—was seen more in among younger people. “We don't know the reason for it. Some people are born with extra electrical conducting tissue”. He said that it could cause rapid palpitation and sometimes lead to fainting. While the prevalence rate of atrial fibrillation would be around 5 per 1,000, in the case of supra ventricular tachycardia occurring in people below 30 years it would be 2-3 for every thousand.

He said sudden cardiac arrest or death caused in 5-10 per cent of those developing another arrhythmia-ventricular tachycardia, could be prevented by an implantable device.

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