Advocate Christ Medical Center
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atrial fibrillationatrial tachycardiabradycardiasupraventricular tachycardiacardiomyopathy
ventricular tachycardiaWolff-Parkinson-White Syndromefaqs

Bradycardia is a condition where the electrical signals in the heart are blocked or slowed down to less than 60 beats per minute. A low resting heart rate can be normal for healthy young adults and highly trained athletes. However, it can become a serious issue if the brain and other organs do not get the oxygen they need from the blood.

People with bradycardia often experience dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath and sleep disturbances. Left untreated, bradycardia can lead to fainting spells and heart failure.

How is it diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you have bradycardia, you may be referred to an electrophysiologist. This specialist will utilize various techniques to link your heart rate to your symptoms and determine what is causing your slow heart rate.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms and detects heart muscle damage. Your doctor can look for patterns in the heart’s electrical signals to determine which type of bradycardia you have.
  • Holter monitoring – records a continuous reading of your heart rate and rhythm over a 24-hour period (or more). You wear a recording device (the Holter monitor), which is connected to small metal disks on your chest. Doctors can then look at a printout of the recording to gather more information about your heart rate and help link your slow heart rate with the onset of symptoms.
  • Tilt table test – utilizes a special table that tilts to induce fainting and help doctors understand how your heart rate and fainting spells are related.
  • Stress test – monitors the heart while you walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike. The test helps doctors determine if your heart rate responds to physical activity.
  • Blood tests – are used to find conditions that may be causing your bradycardia, such as an infection or thyroid dysfunction.

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How is it treated?

Treatment for bradycardia depends on many factors, including the specific cause, severity and characteristics of your slow heart rate. If the cause is an underlying condition, treatment will focus on that condition, which may also correct your bradycardia.

You may also need to change medications if it is found that they are causing the problem.

If those treatments are not effective, pacemaker therapy may be necessary:

  • Pacemaker – is a small device implanted in the chest that continuously monitor heart rate and deliver an electrical impulse to restore a normal heart rate, when needed.
  • Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) – is utilized to treat bradycardias where electrical impulses in both of the heart’s lower chambers are blocked or slowed down. A pacemaker device is implanted in the chest to stimulate both of the lower chambers and regulate heartbeat. These devices are also referred to as biventricular pacemakers.

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How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?

Advocate Christ Medical Center is a proven leader in the diagnosis and treatment of bradycardia and other arrhythmias. We are one of the Midwest’s busiest centers when it comes to performing catheter ablations and electrophysiology studies, as well as implanting defibrillator and pacemakers. Patients benefit from state-of-the-art edge minimally invasive technologies, such as Stereotaxis and 3D intracardiac ultrasound, available at only a few Illinois institutions.

Our team is led by some of the most experienced board certified electrophysiologists in the region. Together with cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, they meet on a monthly basis to develop individualized treatment plans. Patients are guided through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by our clinical nurse coordinator. Our physicians regularly update referring doctors to ensure continuity of care and ongoing communication.

Whether a patient requires medication, a catheter-based procedure or surgical therapy, the doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center provide compassionate care on the cutting edge.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What causes bradycardia?
Bradycardia is caused by a disruption of the impulses that control heart rate. This can be as a result of:

  • Heart tissue degeneration
  • Damage from heart disease or heart attack
  • High blood pressure
  • Congenital heart defect
  • Myocarditis (infection of the heart tissue)
  • Heart surgery complication
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Sleep apnea
  • Inflammatory diseases
  • Certain medications that treat heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure or psychosis

What are the symptoms?
Bradycardia limits the amount of oxygen supplied to the brain and other organs, which can cause symptoms such as:

  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Impaired memory/Confusion

What are the risk factors?
The primary risk factor for bradycardia is age—it is more common in older adults. Bradycardia is also linked to heart disease and shares many of the same risk factors, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Recreational drug use
  • Psychological stress or anxiety

If any medical treatments are ordered by my doctor, will my insurance cover them?
Depending on the type of coverage, most commercial insurance carriers will pay the major share of the cost. You should always consult your insurance company to determine proper coverage.

Who provides the medical care?
The team at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by specialized electrophysiologists, nurses, and other specialists who have extensive experiencing treating patients with bradycardia. You will remain under the care of your primary care physician and cardiologist while you are treated by the specialists at Christ Medical Center. To ensure that your physician is kept up-to-date, our team will provide ongoing reports on the progress you have made.

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