Cardiovascular Surgery Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is arrhythmia?
Arrhythmia simply means irregular heartbeat. In a normal functioning heart, electrical impulses from your nervous system travel to the heart to trigger the rhythmic beating of this important muscle. In certain medical conditions, this normal rhythmic beating becomes irregular. This can be the result of problems in the flow of the electrical impulses from the nervous system, or within the heart itself. The heart may beat too quickly (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia), or irregularly (fibrillation). These irregular heartbeats can occur in the upper chambers of the heart (atria), or in the lower chambers of the heart (ventricles).

Is arrhythmia dangerous?
Arrhythmias should not be dismissed. It is always a wise decision to seek advice from your physician or health care professional if you think you have an irregular heartbeat. If an arrhythmia occurs in a patient who has other heart problems, such as previous heart attacks, heart valve disease, or abnormal heart muscle tissue, this can be a sign of a more serious problem. A certain type of arrhythmia called Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) can lead to an increased risk of heart-related death and stroke.

What is an ECG?
An ECG, sometimes called an EKG, is an electrocardiogram. The old term, EKG, comes from the German word Elektro-Kardiographie, thus leading to the initialism EKG. However, these days the initialism ECG is more commonly used. Electrocardiograms are recordings of the electrical activity of the heart using electrodes placed on the skin. In some cases, Cardiac Event Monitors and Recorders are implanted into the body to measure the electrical activity of the heart directly. These electrodes detect the small electrical changes that occur during the heartbeat cycle. The overall goal of performing an ECG is to obtain information about the electrical function of the heart. A trained physician, often a cardiologist or an electrophysiologist, can interpret the results of the ECG to determine if there is a defect in the heart’s normal function.