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Treating arrhythmias

There are only three reasons to treat arrhythmias. The first is to prolong life. This only applies to life-threatening arrhythmias such as ventricular tachycardia, ventricular fibrillation, and rare instances of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. The treatment of such arrhythmias is expected to prolong life since the risks of treatment are less that the risk of leaving the arrhythmia untreated. The second reason to treat an arrhythmia is to make the patient feel better. This can be achieved assuming that the treatment risk and side effects are not worse than the arrhythmia itself. The last reason to treat an arrhythmia would be to prevent future problems that the arrhythmia could lead to – this is rare and usually not a consideration.

Non-life-threatening arrhythmias

Persons with non-life-threatening arrhythmias may opt for no therapy to prevent or cure their arrhythmia. This is a good option for patients with extra beats and for people with rare episodes of tachycardia that are associated with lower heart rates (usually less than 150 beats per minute) and only minor symptoms. When they experience their arrhythmia, these patients may stay at home or even try to fall asleep in hopes that it will go away on its own. Occasionally, doctors may prescribe a medication to people who may take one pill in hopes of stopping the heart racing at home (“pill in the pocket”).

Going to the Emergency Room

After some period of time if the arrhythmia does not go away, people usually choose to go to the emergency room. Intravenous medicines or even cardioversion (applying an electrical shock to the heart) may be required to stop the arrhythmia. Frequent visits to the emergency room are inconvenient and expensive, such that many patients eventually decide on some form of therapy.