Tachycardia refers to a medical condition where a person’s heart rate rises above normal resting levels. The word “tachycardia” literally comes from the Greek words meaning “rapid heart.” What exactly a normal heart rate is depends on the person – age is normally the biggest contributing factor in determining the normal upper threshold for heart rates. As we age, our heart rate generally slows. The slowing is particularly notable in young children. The normal resting heart rate of an adult is below 100 bpm (beats per minute).
Depending on age and the individual, tachycardia can be very dangerous. When the heart works too rapidly, it also works less efficiently. People experiencing tachycardia actually receive less blood flow to their body, including to the heart itself. This can lead to parts of the body getting too little oxygen, and can lead to angina, ischemic heart disease, or heart attacks.
Obviously, with tachycardia presenting such clear and serious health risks, tachycardia treatment is exceptionally important. Different kinds of tachycardia present different levels of threats to the people experiencing them, and may have different causes, and both of these factors contribute to how doctors and patients may select the appropriate course of treatment. For some types tachycardia, identifying other underlying medical issues and treating those is both the simplest and the most effective technique. Other tachycardia experiences may be caused by underlying physical problems and require invasive surgery, the use of medical implants, or life time medication.
In cases where the condition is caused by abnormal heart tissue, one form of tachycardia treatment which can take the place of more invasive heart surgery is called catheter radiofrequency ablation. In this form of tachycardia treatment, the doctor avoids invasive access to the heart by threading a catheter through the blood vessels to the heart itself, then uses the power of radiofrequency waves to remove the abnormal tissue. In some cases, catheter radiofrequency ablation may be preferred both because it is relatively noninvasive – compared to open heart surgery, certainly – and it can eliminate the need for extended use of medications that may have adverse side effects.
Pacemakers and implantable defibrillators are two medical devices which may be implanted within the body surgically to help regulate the heartbeat. Both of them monitor the heart rate and prevent it from falling too low, which is a danger presented by some of the medications used in the treatment of tachycardia. The implantable defibrillator is a device which can sense when the heart rate becomes irregular, and give a burst of electrical energy to essentially encourage the heart to “restart” at a normal rhythm. Implantable defibrillators have been shown in clinical studies to be very effective as treatments for the most life threatening of tachycardia cases.
Medications may be used either alone or in combination with other tachycardia treatments to control the patent’s tachycardia symptoms. For example, medications may be given to slow down the patient’s heart beat and thus keeping it within the normal range. Medications may also be used which help to restore normal rhythm to the heart. In both cases, the patient will very likely be taking that medication as treatment for their tachycardia every day for the rest of their lives. It is very important in these situations that the doctors accurately identify the problem so that the patient is on the right medications to manage their heart problems.
Anticoagulants, the drugs which prevent blood from clotting, may also be used in conjunction with other treatments to prevent embolism and strokes, which may be a risk with some kinds of tachycardia. No matter what the cause, it is always important for a doctor to work with his patient to identify the best tachycardia treatment for every individual’s situation.