A heart block is a serious condition that causes the heart to lose its regular heart rhythm, with irregular and slow beats, causing it to cease for about 20 seconds at a time. A heart block affects the electrical system of the heart. This is the core area where a heart block differs from coronary artery disease. In the coronary artery disease, the major blood vessels of the heart get blocked, whereas in the condition that causes a heart block, its electrical impulses are disrupted. A heart block may be mitigated or its risk reduced if you are familiar with a few interesting and important aspects of the condition. Here’s what you may watch out for to get the best and most timely treatment when you are experiencing a heart block.
- Understand the Normal Heart Function In a normal state, your heart beats about 60 to 100 times in a minute. Contractions in the heart muscle pump blood throughout your body. These contractions of the heart muscle are mediated by electrical impulses. The path of these electrical impulses starts from the upper chambers of the heart (the atria) to the lower chambers (the ventricles). Your heart can only function properly when these impulses are not delayed for even a fraction of a second.
- Identify the Causes a Heart Block Electrical impulses take a specific pathway to travel and regulate the heartbeat. A heart block is caused when there is an obstruction or complete interruption along the pathway of electrical impulses, adversely affecting the heart beat. The causal factor for heart block is generally a damaged muscle or heart value that may result from an injury. Heart blocks affect the entire circulatory system, including the organs and muscles, and also the brain, as the organs are unable to receive enough oxygen to function efficiently.
- Recognize the Major Symptoms of a Heart Block When you are familiar with the major symptoms of a heart block, you are able to promptly take action to prevent damage and seek timely medical help. The major symptoms you may experience when you have a heart attack include fainting, lightheadedness, and palpitations. The condition may get dangerous when the block is severe. A third-degree block, for example, can increase your chances of heart failure if you are already experiencing the symptoms. In extreme cases, one may lose consciousness and suffer from a sudden cardiac arrest. Chest pain is a tell tale sign of a heart block.
- Know the Different Types of Heart Blocks The different types of heart blocks may be classified as first-degree block, second-degree block, and third-degree block. In a first-degree block, you may experience only minor disruptions of the heart beat, that may be simply described as skipped beats. The first-degree heart block is quite tolerable, and may not require treatment. A more severe form of heart block is the second degree heart block which stops electrical signals from reaching the heart, and skipped heart beats. The second-degree block is usually accompanied by dizziness as its major symptom , and may require a pacemaker. The underlying cause is generally described as the electrical impulse not being able to reach the lower chambers as it travels from the upper chambers of the heart. This may cause the ventricles to have difficulty contracting, and a pacemaker may usually fix the problem. In the third-degree heart block, the electrical signals are unable to travel from the upper chambers to the lower chambers of the heart. The third-degree block is usually experienced by patients suffering from a heart disease and a pacemaker is mandatory in this condition.
- Understand the Differences between Coronary Heart Disease and Heart Block A heart attack caused due to an acute coronary syndrome is very different from the one caused due to a heart block. In the acute coronary syndrome (ACS), the root cause is a block in the artery. Another term used to refer to a heart attack is myocardial infarction (MI). A heart attack caused due to a block in the coronary artery is classified according to the patterns detected on an electrocardiogram. Generally, an artery is found to be completely blocked when a heart attack occurs, causing the muscle to receive a reduced supply of blood. Nausea, anxiety, breathlessness, cold sweats, and lightheadedness accompany a typical heart attack. Some people may also experience a silent heart attack. A silent heart attack is also called a “coronary spasm” or “unstable angina”. People commonly experience the symptoms of indigestion and muscle pain during a silent heart attack. These heart attacks differ from the one caused by a disruption in the electrical impulse system of the heart.
- Know the Risk Factors of a Heart Block When you are suffering from a condition such as coronary thrombosis, myocarditis, endocarditis, or cardiomyopathy, you may be at a greater risk of dealing with a heart block. In addition, certain conditions such as the Lyme disease also put you at a greater risk of suffering from a heart block. If you have undergone cardiac surgery, you are at a higher risk of heart attack from a heart block.
- Know how to Prepare for a Physician Visit When you are aware of the process a physician may follow to make your diagnosis, you are in the best position to help your physician draft the right plan to treat your precise condition. Your physician is most likely to first listen to your heart when he or she suspects a possible heart disease. Your medical history and age may affect your diagnosis. The physician may even refer you to a specialist or a cardiologist to get a clear picture of your condition.
- Find Out What Tests you May be Prescribed during Diagnosis There are several tests a physician may use to assist in making the final diagnosis. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is most frequently employed to get a preview of the heart activity. The physician places probes on your chest to record the nature of electrical impulses. The test reveals precise details such as which side is blocked, and the different characteristics of the heart rhythms. In addition, your physician may also use the electrophysiology test which is about using tiny electrical shocks to find out what caused an abnormal rhythm and the precise location for the abnormality. Another test is the tilt-table test, in which the patient lies on a bed and changes position that cause arrhythmia or abnormal heartbeats.
- Know the Common Treatments for Heart Block The primary treatment a physician may choose is to restore blood flow (reperfusion therapy). Your doctor may use anti-clotting agents or install a pacemaker to restore your heart rhythm. A pacemaker is installed under the skin by performing a surgery. You will receive local anesthesia when you are advised to have a pacemaker implanted, and you will generally spend about two hours at the operating table. Pacemakers have different designs, including the ones that are customized to produce electrical impulses only when required. Although pace makers are generally resistant to most electronic devices, they may not retain their performance after exposure to a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan.
- Know the Complications of a Heart Block It is important to also understand that you may be at a higher risk of complications when your left side is affected, rather than when the problem exists on the right side. Common complications you may face include a low heart rate (bradycardia), cardiac arrest, irregular heart beat (arrhythmia), or insufficient contraction.
How KareOptions can Help you Deal with a Heart Block KareOptions understands the inherent complexities in dealing with a heart block. Given the numerous aspects that entail the successful diagnosis and treatment of a heart block, KareOptions offers professional guidance in dealing with the root cause of the problem. Our Medical Second Opinion Service (MSOS) and Second Opinion Board review (SOBR) deal in the value of a second opinion for a cross-disciplinary diagnosis and detailed treatment plan. Our other services include the Continuity of Care (COC) service and Transfer of Care Coordination (TOCC) that have proven benefits in not just finding the right treatment facility and expert medical team, but also devising an optimal diagnosis and treatment regimen.
References https://www.okheart.com/about-us/ohh-news/heart-block-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17056-heart-block https://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/what-is-heart-block