An arrhythmia is when a heart beats irregularly. The condition can cause the heart to beat too quickly, too slowly or unevenly. If your child’s doctor finds an arrhythmia, they may recommend diagnostic tests or refer you to a pediatric cardiologist.
Heart rate measures a heart’s beats per minute. A child’s resting heart rate is around 70. Infants’ hearts beat about 140 times per minute. Heart rhythms are ordinarily regular, though they speed and slow during different activities.
An arrhythmia can be present at birth or develop later. Sometimes an irregular heartbeat doesn’t have symptoms. Doctors often find the problem during routine exams. If your child’s pediatrician notices an arrhythmia, they will evaluate her medical history. Report health concerns to your doctor during the exam.
We have various therapies for our patients with irregular heart beats. The recommended treatment depends on the patient’s condition. Here are some of the therapies pediatric cardiologists recommend for children with an arrhythmia:
We can treat some disorders with drugs. Tachycardias, a condition where the heart beats too fast, may be improved with medication. Medicine doesn’t cure an arrhythmia but may prevent or shorten an episode of irregular beats.
If your child’s physician prescribes a drug, your child may need to take a dose every day or she may need it only when her heart beats abnormally. Some patients begin drug treatment in a hospital where they can be monitored for side effects. A doctor may need to prescribe several drugs before finding the right medication.
Serious arrhythmias may require more than medication. A physician may recommend a permanent remedy if a child’s condition is life-threatening. A radiofrequency catheter ablation is a non-invasive procedure. The pediatric cardiologist uses several catheters to change the part of the heart that causes the irregularity.
Physicians treat some patients with open surgery. The surgeon will alter the heart to interrupt the abnormal connection causing the problem.
An artificial pacemaker can improve some types of irregularities. A pacemaker is a small device that helps the heart beat regularly. Cardiologists implant pacemakers inside a child’s abdomen or next to the chest wall, connecting it to the heart with a thin wire. The pacemaker sends electricity to the heart to help it beat. The current does not hurt.
Pacemakers are prescribed most often for a low heart rate. A child with a pacemaker must visit a cardiologist regularly for checkups. Children with these devices are usually able to engage in normal activities though your pediatric cardiologist may advise against contact sports.
Pediatric Cardiology of Oregon treats children who have heart problems. We have offices in Portland, Oregon and outreach locations in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Contact us for an appointment here.