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Heart Rhythm Program

Team Approach | Arrhythmia Symptoms | Treatment Options | Lead Management

Irregular heartbeat. Skipped beats. A fluttering heart. Fainting spells. When it comes to the beating and rhythm of your heart, it’s important that the heart’s electrical system functions properly. Arrhythmia conditions can range from harmless to life-threatening, which is why a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan is necessary.

At NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, our Heart Rhythm Program is comprised of a multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular specialists that focuses on a wide range of heart rhythm disorders and abnormalities. Known as clinical cardiac electrophysiologists or cardiac EP, these physician experts are cardiologists with additional cardiovascular subspecialty training. This expertise allows them to identify, diagnose and treat abnormal heart rhythms that are caused by rapid beating (tachycardia), slow beating (bradycardia) or other heart rhythm disorders including:

The most common heart rhythm disorder in the country, atrial fibrillation (AFib) disrupts the health and wellbeing of millions of Americans. Our new NorthShore AFib Center offers exceptionally comprehensive care for patients with AFib. With locations in Bannockburn, Skokie and Glenview, the center makes it easier for patients with irregular heartbeats to access a multidisciplinary team of expert specialists.

Unparalleled Expertise, Team Approach

At NorthShore Cardiovascular Institute, we offer a fully integrated, multidisciplinary approach to treat Afib and other arrhythmia conditions. Highly collaborative care is essential in treating arrhythmia conditions as many arrhythmias are often associated with other cardiac conditions, such as valvular disease, heart attack and heart failure, and can put you at an increased risk of stroke and other heart issues. Our electrophysiology experts understand the importance of working as a team to provide you with the most comprehensive treatment and care for your arrhythmia.

Our cardiovascular specialists have decades of experience managing and treating arrhythmias utilizing medical therapies, implantable devices, ablation and complex surgical procedures. From more traditional cases to those that require complex surgical procedures, our team offers you customized care from the moment of diagnosis, through treatment and into recovery.

Common Heart Rhythm Symptoms

The symptoms associated with an arrhythmia will vary based on the specific diagnosis. Some of the most common symptoms associated with heart rhythm disorders, include:

  • Palpitations of the heart
  • Awareness of heart beating and/or chest discomfort
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Syncope (or momentary passing out)
  • Cardiac arrest

Depending on the arrhythmia condition and other health concerns, symptoms may not be easily identified or even noticed. If you suspect you may have an arrhythmia or if you have a family history of heart rhythm disorders, it should be taken seriously and appropriately treated by a cardiovascular expert.

Treatment Options

Our experts not only have access to but also have helped pioneer the most advanced treatments for cardiac arrhythmias. An international leader in leadless pacing, we possess the most experience in the Midwest region with the implantation of cutting-edge leadless pacemakers. Placed directly in the heart rather than connected via leads, these self-contained miniaturized electronic units are less invasive and result in fewer complications than traditional pacemakers.

Through an integrated, team approach—consisting of cardiologists, electrophysiologists and cardiovascular surgeons—we are able to determine the best treatment option for you based on your specific arrhythmia condition and needs. We understand that treatment is ongoing and offer comprehensive follow-up care to ensure the best outcome.

The recommended course of action for treatment is tailored to your unique condition. Available arrhythmia treatment options include:

  • Medical Therapies—Medical therapy is often important in the treatment of arrhythmias. Depending on your specific case and medical history, your cardiologist will recommend the most effective option for you to manage your symptoms. Common medical therapies may include anti-arrhythmic, anticoagulant and beta-blocker drugs.
  • Cardiac Devices—Implantable devices can greatly assist with the immediate treatment or continuous monitoring of heart rhythm disorders. Devices commonly used for arrhythmia treatment include:
    • Implantable cardiac-defibrillator (ICD) – This device monitors heart rate and helps normalize heart rhythms when it senses any abnormalities by delivering an electrical shock. It can be used to correct irregular, fast and slow heart beats.
    • Cardiac pacemaker – A pacemaker helps control abnormal heart beats by electrically stimulating the heart when it is either beating too slowly or not beating.
    • Implantable loop monitor – This device records your heart’s electrical activity and can help you and your cardiac care team to better understand the cause of abnormal heart beats. It can also help determine the effectiveness of medication, ICD and pacemaker.
    • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) – Used to improve heart rhythm and blood flow in patients with heart failure and/or arrhythmias, this device may help alleviate symptoms and improve heart function.
  • Ablation – This minimally-invasive technique, often called catheter ablation, involves inserting small catheters through veins in the groin to reach the heart to repair electrical heart problems in order to eliminate or improve arrhythmias. This technique is highly effective at destroying any tissue or potential heart scarring that may cause irregular heart rhythms.  

Ablation is often the primary mode of treatment performed for arrhythmias such as supraventricular tachycardia, atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation.

Complex ventricular tachycardia (VT) ablation may be considered in patients with VT who can no longer be effectively managed with medication and already have a defibrillator device to target and correct the life threatening arrhythmia. This procedure also helps prevent recurrent shocks from a defibrillator, which can be especially beneficial to VT patients who require frequent shocks.

Lead Management / Lead Extraction

Our cardiovascular team also has expertise in managing the care of patients with implanted defibrillators and pacemakers. Over time defibrillators and pacemakers may require repair or removal due to device failure or infection. Extraction of an ICD lead (wire) requires collaborative care and clinical expertise only available at specialized centers. At NorthShore, we take a multidisciplinary approach when it comes to lead management and extraction.

Depending on each unique patient case, our team will determine the best course of action to address a lead—either requiring ongoing management or removal. To ensure the highest level of patient safety, we employ a hybrid model for extraction surgery. Through this hybrid model, multiple cardiovascular specialists—including electrophysiologists and cardiac surgeons—are involved in the surgery and can in real-time coordinate and customize care as needed.

Our Heart Rhythm Program at NorthShore puts the patient at the center of care. Through our highly integrated, multidisciplinary approach, we offer some of the most comprehensive, leading-edge treatment options available for patients with arrhythmia conditions.

To schedule an appointment with one of our electrophysiology specialists, please call 847.86.HEART.