Resetting Your Heart's Rhythm: February 13, 2011

Musicians use it. Dancers use it. Even your heart uses it: rhythm. But for those with atrial fibrillation, heart rhythms can get out of whack. “It’s very common in cardiac patients and many patients as they get older, into their 70s or 80s. About 10 percent of people have it even If there are no cardiac conditions,” says Dr. Brian Taschner, a Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist.

Getting the heart back into a rhythm is key to keeping blood and oxygen flowing throughout the body without interruption. “For many patients, just giving them medicines to make sure the heart rate is not going too fast is one option. That’s called a rate control strategy.”

Certain conditions may require resetting the heart’s rhythms. Dr. Taschner says this is when a cardioversion may be necessary. “Essentially what the cardioversion is: there is an electrocardioversion where we actually bring the patients over to the hospital and apply electricity to the heart and basically reset the pacemaker cells of the heart.”

And that’s not the only way. “There’s also a chemical cardioversion where we use certain medications to restore normal science rhythm.”

Once the heart’s rhythm is reset, the efforts are now placed on keeping the rhythm regular. “If we decide to cardiovert them because they are symptomatic, often times those patients will need medications to keep them in a normal rhythm and prevent a reoccurrence of atrial fibrillation.”

In these cases, the goal is to slow the heart rate and reset it to between 60 and 100 beats per minute.