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Basic Information


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NOTE: Last updated 17 December 2001. Follow this link to:   Advanced Tachycardia Therapy and Cardiovascular Physical Therapy

Tachycardia Therapy

(Treatment for fast heart rates)

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First of all...what's normal?

The heart is a series of pumps that are carefully controlled by a very special electrical system. This electrical system attempts to regulate the heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute. The initial electrical signal originates near the top of the upper chamber on the right side of the heart. This chamber is called the "right atrium" and the special tissue that generates the signal is called the "sino-atrial" or SA node.

The electrical signal continues in a downward fashion through the "atrio-ventricular" or AV node, where the signal is slowed slightly by special tissue. The AV node is the "doorway" or relay station to the bundle of His (pronounced Hiss) and the bundle branches in the lower chambers of the heart.

After passing through the left and right bundle branches, the impulse arrives at the Purkinje fibers, where it is transmitted to the muscle cells of the left and right ventricles. Because of the specialized way in which the impulse is transmitted, the ventricles contract almost simultaneously.

With normal conduction, the cardiac contractions are very organized and timed so that the top chambers (the atria) contract before the lower chambers and the heart rate is maintained between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Electrical Conduction


1. The SA Node.
2. The AV Node.
3. The Bundle of His.
4. The Bundle Branches.
5. The Purkinje fibers.

Fast heart rates (tachycardias)...

TOPBottom Abnormally fast heart rates are called tachycardias. When the ventricular chambers beat too quickly, the arrhythmia (unusual heart rhythm) is known as ventricular tachycardia. When ventricular tachycardia (abbreviated - VT) occurs, the ventricles may not be able to fill with enough blood to supply the body with the oxygen rich blood that it needs. Symptoms of VT include feeling faint, sometimes passing out, dizzyness, or a pounding in the chest.

Ventricular tachycardia may be controlled by medication in some cases. If medications are not effective, the physician may elect to control the rhythm by electrical methods. The most common electrical therapy for VT is implantation of a device known as an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator or ICD. The ICD applies an electric shock to the heart muscle to interrupt or disrupt the fast rhythm. The electric shock may be in the form of specially timed pacemaker pulses (unfelt by the patient) or by high voltage shock. The high voltage shock, if required, is usually felt by the patient.

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