Heart Rhythm: Normal vs. Abnormal with Thabet Alsheikh, M.D., FACC, FHRS, Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute

The normal heart beats at regular intervals and at a resting speed of 60 to 100 beats per minute. Arrhythmia, or abnormal heart electricity, occurs when the heart is irregular or it is beating faster or slower than normal. Thabet Alsheikh, M.D., FACC, FHRS, an electrophysiologist with the Heart Rhythm team at Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute, explains when a patient with an arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, would need to see an electrophysiologist.

Q: What are the different types of arrhythmias?

A: There are two main types of arrhythmias. Tachyarrhythmia, an abnormally fast heart rate, and bradyarrhythmia, a slower than expected heart rate. Some arrhythmias are common and are considered benign, such as occasional “skipping” that could be detected by an EKG or during cardiac monitoring. This can be seen in people with healthy hearts and of all ages.

Q: Are all abnormal heart rhythms a sign of something more serious?

A: Abnormal heart rhythm tends to be more common as we get older and is more likely to happen in weak hearts and during or after heart attacks. A heart attack causes scarring in part of the heart muscle. This could cause damage to the heart’s electrical system and can result in abnormal and potentially dangerous electrical signals and circuits.
We can think of the heart as a house with rooms (the chambers), doors (the valves), plumbing system (the arteries) and electrical system (the heart electricity).

Q: How do we manage these risk factors?

A: Managing the usual risk factors that could result in clogged arteries and heart attacks such as HTN, diabetes, high lipids and controlling factors that could weaken the heart pump is the best we could do to prevent abnormal heart rhythm.

Q: What are the symptoms of arrhythmias and how do we treat them?

A: Arrhythmias could be a symptom of other diseases and disorders such as thyroid disease and sleep apnea. Arrhythmias can be totally asymptomatic and may be discovered during routine exam or checkup. It can also be very symptomatic causing palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness, fatigue, passing out spells and even death.

Q: What solutions are there to fix arrhythmias?

A: Pacemakers - correct slow heart rhythm and improve symptoms by preventing the heart from slowing down and by driving the heart at faster rates as needed with physical activities through the pacemakers’ special sensors.
Catheter Ablation Procedure - Tachyarrhythmia, a fast heart rate, could be treated by medications or by destroying the bad spot within the heart that is misfiring rapidly. This procedure is called catheter ablation. This is done through a minimally invasive method using small catheters advanced to the heart through the groin blood vessels under X-ray. The procedure success rates exceed 90 percent in most cases with very low complication and recurrence rates.
Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) - It is similar to a pacemaker, but with additional ability to deliver therapies and shocks to treat potentially life threatening tachyarrhythmia

Q: How is an electrophysiologist different from a cardiologist?

A: Electrophysiologists are board-certified cardiologists with additional extensive training in diagnosing and managing arrhythmias. They are specialized in implanting and explanting pacemakers, ICDs and in catheter ablations. They are the “heart electricians.”

Q: Where can patients go for electrophysiology treatment at Baptist?

A: Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute recently opened its doors to their newest electrophysiology clinic in Fort Walton Beach. The new clinic accommodates the increased demand in the area for an electrophysiologist. The clinic is open on Thursdays and shares a location with Dermatology Specialist of Fort Walton, located at 922 Mar Walt Drive, Suite 100, near Fort Walton Beach Medical Center.

Physicians serving this location are Thabet Alsheikh, M.D., FACC, FHRS; Sumit Verma, M.D., FACC; Ian Weisberg, M.D.; and Evaldas Giedrimas, M.D.

The Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute electrophysiologists are currently welcoming new patients. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please visit www.eBapitstHealthCare.org or call 850.484.6500.

 Learn more about Dr. Alsheikh: www.baptistmedicalgroup.org/doctors/thabet-alsheikh-md-facc-fhrs