Serious Heart Block

Serious Heart Block

Heart block is a condition that occurs when the electrical impulses that control the heart rate and rhythm are disrupted or blocked. It is a disorder found in the electrical pathways that transmit information from the atria to the ventricles, called the atrioventricular node (AV node).

When the AV node does not communicate properly or gets completely blocked, it results in heart block. This can cause the heart to beat too fast, too slow, or in a totally abnormal pattern.

Heart block is classified as first-degree, second-degree, or third-degree heart block, based on the severity of the block. It can range from mild and asymptomatic to more serious, which could require the placement of a pacemaker.

Types of Heart Block

  • First-degree heart block: This type involves the slowing of the electrical signals through the AV node. Most people experience no symptoms with first-degree heart block, and a pacemaker is rarely needed.
  • Second-degree heart block: This type is further divided into Mobitz type I (Wenckebach) and Mobitz type II. Second-degree heart block is more serious than first-degree block and can cause symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, and fainting. Depending on the type of second-degree heart block, a pacemaker may or may not be necessary.
  • Third-degree heart block: This is the most serious type of heart block and causes maximal disruption of the electrical signals. People with third-degree heart block have a weak and irregular heartbeat and may experience severe symptoms, including confusion, chest pain, and shortness of breath. A pacemaker is usually needed for this type of block.

Diagnosis of Heart Block

Heart block is typically diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (ECG), which uses electrodes attached to the body to detect the heart’s electrical activity. If the ECG suggests the presence of heart block, other tests such as echocardiograms, Holter monitors, and electrophysiology studies may be needed to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of Heart Block

Treatment of heart block depends on the type and severity of the block. For mild cases of first-degree heart block, no treatment is usually necessary. However, more serious forms of heart block can cause life-threatening symptoms and may need to be treated with medications or with a pacemaker.