Irregular Heartbeats During a Heart Catheterization
It is relatively common to experience irregular heartbeats during a heart catheterization. Sometimes, when things go wrong in the heart's electrical pathways, an electrical signal may be sent from a part of the heart that should not be sending signals, creating abnormal heart rhythms. In most cases, when irregular heartbeats occur during a heart catheterization, they are brief and cause no symptoms.
Before we discuss the specifics of this particular cardiac catheterization complication, you should know a little about the normal process of a heartbeat.
Your heart is only able to beat because it sends electrical signals from an area in your heart called the SA node, or the main pacemaker. In a normal situation, the electrical signals cause the upper parts of the heart to beat together. This pushes blood into the lower parts of the heart. Then, as the electrical signals continue through the heart, the lower chambers contract to push blood out of the heart.
Sometimes, things go wrong in the heart's electrical pathways. An electrical signal may be sent from a part of the heart that should not be sending signals. This creates abnormal heartbeats. The heart may beat too slowly, too rapidly, or just irregularly.
Irregular heartbeats during a heart catheterization are a relatively common occurrence. Most of these are, fortunately, very brief and cause no symptoms. However, in rare cases, an abnormal rhythm can develop that creates an immediate risk. Because of this risk, instruments and medications will be close at hand to treat these rhythms, and your healthcare providers have advanced training for these situations.
Depending on the heart irregularity, your doctor may temporarily or permanently place a pacemaker or defibrillator into your heart. These instruments can sense abnormal heart rhythms and act to correct them. They are often used if you have developed, or are at risk of developing, a heart rhythm that can cause serious consequences. In rare cases, an abnormal rhythm can even lead to death.