New cardiologist helps expand Gundersen's electrophysiology services
Heart arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, commonly described by patients as "feeling like my heart is pounding out of my chest" or "like my heart is skipping beats."
"There are different types of arrhythmias. Some are benign and not urgent, but some can be very serious and life threatening, especially if there's an underlying heart condition such as a prior heart attack," says Gundersen electrophysiologist David Ludden, MD, who is a cardiologist with additional training in the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms.
The anatomy of arrhythmia
Electrical impulses cause the heart to contract thereby pumping blood out to the body. Arrhythmias result when chaotic electrical impulses slow the heart or cause the heart to race.
Symptoms of arrhythmia range from mild to severe, and may include:
- heart palpitations (racing, fluttering, irregular, thumping or faster-than-normal heartbeats)
- chest pressure or pain
- lightheadedness or dizziness
- shortness of breath
David Ludden, MD
Symptoms may be constant or come and go, last a few seconds or several hours, or first appear in infancy or old age. "Arrhythmias can be very unpredictable," says Dr. Ludden. "That's why, if you have symptoms, you should seek medical help and, if necessary, the advice of a specialist."
When to see a doctor
If you have symptoms, a family history of arrhythmia or significant heart disease, you should discuss these with your doctor. If you experience symptoms, seek medical care right away.
Dr. Ludden reports, that treatment depends on the frequency and severity of symptoms, other underlying medical conditions and age and may include:
- Reassurance that no treatment is necessary for a benign arrhythmia
- A nonsurgical procedure which selectively destroys the tissue responsible for the abnormal heart rhythm
- An implanted pacemaker or defibrillator
"If properly diagnosed, once-fatal or disabling cardiac arrhythmias can be managed or even cured. That's why the work of electrophysiologists is so important," Dr. Ludden explains.
If you have, or suspect you might have, an arrhythmia problem, talk with your doctor or cardiologist about a referral to Dr. Ludden.