icon_plusSymptoms

Slow heartbeats can affect your heart’s ability to deliver blood and oxygen throughout the body. This can lead to several symptoms including dizziness and shortness of breath.

icon_diagnosis

Diagnosis

Your doctor may order a series of tests to find out what is causing your bradycardia. Testing could include a blood test, an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), or an exercise test that will let your doctor monitor your heart rate during physical activity. These tests can help your doctor determine why you are having slower than normal heartbeats.

ECG/EKG

For an electrocardiogram, your doctor will put small electrical sensors on your chest and arms. The recorded electrical signals will help identify patterns that could indicate what type of bradycardia you have. An ECG/EKG can be done in a physician’s office, a clinic, or hospital. Before the test, talk to your physician about any medications you are taking and remove all of your jewelry. Men will have to remove their shirt and women may be asked to wear a gown. The areas where the electrodes are attached will need to be clean and may need to be shaved to adhere properly. The test takes five to 10 minutes and will require you to lie still, not talk, and breathe normally.

ecg_ekg_img

Portable ECGs/EKGs

icon_holter

Holter Monitor: You might be given a portable ECG/EKG device–a Holter monitor–to record your heart activity for a 24-hour period while you are at home.

icon_recorder

Event Recorder: An event recorder is another portable ECG/EKG device that can monitor your heartbeat for longer periods of time: a few weeks or months. The Event Recorder lets you push a button when you begin feeling symptoms. The readings will help your doctor find out what is happening before, during, and after the episode.

icon_loop

Insertable Cardiac Monitor: There are event recorders that can be inserted just under the skin of your chest and will monitor your heart’s activity continuously for months or even years. The device will be triggered by any irregular heart activity.

Exercise Test

To see what happens to your heart rate during physical activity, your doctor may ask you to perform an exercise or “stress” test. Your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure will be monitored while you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. Wires from an ECG/EKG machine will be attached to your chest, arms or shoulders and your heartbeats will be recorded. This will show your doctor how your heart responds to greater activity levels. To prepare for a stress test, make sure to wear shoes and clothing that will be comfortable for light exercise.

Blood Test

Having a blood test can help your doctor identify conditions that might be contributing to your bradycardia. A blood test can measure the level of cholesterol, hormones, medications, and other proteins that might be affecting your heart rate.

Tilt Table Testing

If you have experienced fainting, your doctor might ask you to have a tilt table test. For this test, you’ll have to lie flat on a table with straps to hold you firmly in place. After 15 minutes, the table will be tilted to an upright position similar to standing. You’ll stay in that position for about 45 minutes. Tilting the table will help your doctor see any changes in your heart rate or blood pressure.

Patient Success Story

Meet Barbara

“My home monitoring sends messages to my doctor so that he knows what’s going on with my heart and I don’t have to worry about it. My kids are happy to know that there’s a monitoring system, that’s been good for them.”

Treatment

One treatment for bradycardia is a pacing system to monitor your heartbeat. The system includes a pacemaker, which is a small pulse generator with a microcircuit computer and a special battery, and one or more thin, insulated wires called leads.

Living With

icon_aftercareAfter pacemaker surgery, you might experience redness, swelling, or soreness. Limit movement of your arm and avoid heavy lifting so you don’t disturb the implantation site. Try to avoid any quick or sudden movements that might dislodge the leads.

Choosing Your Pacemaker

Not all pacemakers are alike. Get our educational eguide, Choosing Your Pacemaker, and learn what functions are key to choosing the best device for your lifestyle.

X

LEARN MORE ABOUT ARRHYTHMIA

Get our educational eguide, Understanding Abnormal Heart Rhythms, and learn about the basic heart functions and types of arrhythmia.