URMC Cardiology

Bradycardia

What is it?

Bradycardia means an abnormally slow heart beat. It is usually defined as a heart beat that is slower than 60 beats per minute.

Some people who have slow heart beats are completely healthy. But for other people, a slow heart beat may mean that not enough blood is being pumped to supply the needs of the heart itself.

Bradycardia can cause fatigue and other symptoms. If it is serious enough, bradycardia can cause cardiac arrest and death.

What are the symptoms?

Bradycardia does not always cause symptoms. In some people, such as athletes, a slow heart beat may be normal and completely healthy.

Following are some of the symptoms that people with bradycardia may experience:

  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Chest discomfort
  • Difficulty sleeping

How is it treated?

The first step in treating bradycardia is determining its cause.

A major cause of bradycardia is a problem with  the conduction system of your heart. The heart contains a network that acts as an electrical wiring system.  This conduction system can be damaged or degenerate over time, causing your heart rate to slow down or to skip beats. 

Your cardiologist may recommend a pacemaker to treat your slow heart rate.  A pacemaker is a small device that is implanted in your chest. Tiny wires extend from the pacemaker to your heart. When necessary, the pacemaker produces electrical impulses that keep your heart beating at a steady pace.

In some patients, other disorders—such as hypothyroidism—may be causing the slow heart beat. If that is the case, your cardiologist will recommend treatment for the underlying condition.

Another cause of bradycardia can be the medications you are taking. Your cardiologist will want to determine if a current prescription could be the cause of your slow heart beat. Often, lowering the dosage or taking an alternate medication can help resolve the problem.

What is URMC’s approach?

If you need a pacemaker, it will be implanted in the Electrophysiology Lab at URMC. Our Electrophysiology Lab is considered a world leader in the treatment of heart rhythm disorders like bradycardia.

We have three modern EP labs, equipped with the most recent imaging and mapping devices that can pinpoint the cause of your abnormal heart rhythm.   Our labs are staffed by a dedicated team of cardiologists, nurses and technicians. Patients come from around the world to take advantage of our expertise in heart rhythm disorders.

URMC is also a leader in research on heart rhythm disorders. This research helps ensure that we are on the cutting edge of patient care.

Who should I contact?

If you have been diagnosed with bradycardia or have symptoms of a slow heart beat, call URMC Cardiology at (585) 275-4775.

Learn more about the EP Lab at URMC.

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