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Arrhythmias in children

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Arrhythmias is any alteration in the regular, even rhythm of the heart. When a child has an arrhythmia, his/her heart beats too rapidly or slow or even skip a beat or have additional beats.

Arrhythmias might be due to a physical condition such as a heart defect or a response to external factors such as infection, fever and certain medications. Even playing and crying can momentarily alter the heart rate of a child.

Most cases of arrhythmias among children are isolated events and relatively harmless.

Most cases are relatively harmless but some can be serious and even dangerous. If the heart beats too rapidly or too slow, it can affect the ability of the heart to pump blood properly to the entire body. An erratic blood flow can impair the organs including the liver, kidneys, brain and the heart.

What are the indications?

Some of the usual indications of arrhythmias among children include the following:

  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Palpitations
  • Paleness
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Sluggish or rapid heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty feeding among infants
  • Sweating
  • Sensation of a pause in between heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irritability among infants

Management of arrhythmias

Most cases of arrhythmias among children are isolated events and relatively harmless. In some instances, though, the underlying issue such as a fever should be treated.

If treatment is needed, it is based on the age of the child as well as the type and cause of the arrhythmia. The commonly used treatment options include:

  • Medications – most cases of arrhythmias respond well to medications but can trigger certain side effects.
  • Radiofrequency ablation – this procedure involves cardiac catheterization and utilizes radiofrequency energy that is applied on the area where the arrhythmias start.
  • Pacemaker – this is a small-sized device that is implanted beneath the skin which transmits pulses to control the erratic heart rhythm
  • Cardioversion – this is a procedure where an electric shock is administered to the heart to convert an erratic or fast heart rhythm to a normal one.
  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator – these devices are placed beneath the skin and utilizes shocks or electrical pulses to control the arrhythmias
  • Surgery – the Maze surgery is done to treat atrial fibrillation. During the procedure, small incisions or burns are made into the atria to prevent the spread of unsystematic signals.

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