If Your Quivering Heart Could Talk: April 11, 2014

It’s common-speak to say something made your heart flutter. But in many cases, it’s true. And it can be a sign of something serious.

“When people have a stroke, especially younger patients, there’s an extensive workup done to find the reason they had the stroke. A lot of times there’s not an initial diagnostic cause that you were able to find. A lot of times there’s’ what they call cryptogenic strokes’ are caused by arrhythmias.” says Lee Memorial Health System cardiologist Dr. Robert Cross.

An arrhythmia is a term used to describe an irregular heartbeat, sometimes called a quivering heart.  The most common form, A Fib - or atrial fibrillation, has long been linked to a higher stroke risk. It means the upper chamber of the heart is off-beat. The danger arises if left-over blood pools in the heart and causes clots to form.

“A Fib is the cause of embolic stoke. A clot that forms in the left atrium of the heart because of the arrhythmia, then breaks off and goes up into the brain,” says Dr. Cross.

A Fib is also linked to so-called silent strokes. People may not realize they suffered one, but damage from a stroke shows up later on an MRI. Which is why cardiologists are often going hi-tech, using an implantable loop recorder to get arrhythmias to reveal themselves.

“It’s a wireless system that monitors the patients to see if they have any of these arrhythmias, which sometimes could take months to manifest themselves.”

Determining what your quivering heart may be telling you is important for doctors in determining your treatment - and important for you in lowering the risk of stroke.