Your doctor will help you determine whether you need arrhythmia treatment or if he or she wants to take a ‘let’s watch’ approach. Arrhythmia treatment can help control your heart rate and therefore reduce some risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Five options for treatment include:
- Lifestyle modifications and monitoring – Avoid substances that can contribute to a faster or slower heartbeat than normal such as caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, cough and cold medications and other types of medications that affect heartbeat. Learn how to take your pulse and keep a record so that you can personally monitor if your heart rate is abnormal.
- Medication – There are several different types of medications that are used to treat arrhythmias. Talk with your doctor about options and how to know which may be the most effective for you. If you take medication, take it exactly as prescribed.
- Catheter ablation – Doctors go into the body (typically the groin) and use a tube, or catheter, to locate abnormal tissue that causes the arrhythmia. He or she then sends radiofrequency energy, which is like microwave heat to destroy the tissue. Catheter ablation is a low-risk and common procedure.
- Pacemaker implant – An artificial pacemaker may be placed under the skin and connected to your heart to take control of and regulate your heart’s rhythm.
- Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) – An ICD is also implanted under the skin. It monitors your heart rate and provides a mild shock if it detects an abnormal rate. This type of device can prevent sudden cardiac death.
How to Prepare for Arrhythmia Surgery
If you’re facing arrhythmia surgery, it’s important that you understand what will happen during your procedure. If you have questions about it, ask your doctor or another member of your healthcare team to explain. Here are some other important factors and tasks that will help you get ready for surgery:
Check on paperwork
As soon as you are scheduled for surgery, find out if you need to fill out any paperwork or get any medical tests. To avoid financial surprises, find out what your insurance will pay toward your surgery and what you can expect to pay out of pocket. If you need assistance paying for the procedure, a hospital social worker may be able to help with ideas and resources.
Ask about pre-op restrictions
Let your doctor know what medications you are taking and ask whether any of them should be discontinued before surgery. Make sure to mention any vitamins, supplements and over-the-counter medications you take regularly.
Find out if there are restrictions on what you can eat or drink the day before surgery. Patients are usually advised to eat or drink nothing after midnight so they have an empty stomach, because anesthesia can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting.
Plan for returning home
You aren’t allowed to drive, lift heavy items or exert yourself vigorously after your procedure, so you will need to rely on a family member or another caregiver to help you after surgery. Enlist someone to take you to appointments or accompany you on public transportation, pick up needed medications, prepare or bring you meals, and help with pet care needs. You will also need to arrange transportation to the hospital and a ride home after you are discharged.