Heart Arrhythmia

What is arrhythmia? Your heart works like an electrical pump, sending out currents that synchronize your heartbeats. Arrhythmias occur when these electrical pulses beat too fast, slow, or erratically.

Arrhythmia symptoms

If you have an arrhythmia, you may experience heart fluttering, chest pain, shortness of breath, or dizziness. Some heart rhythm issues are harmless and don’t cause any symptoms. But certain arrhythmias can be life-threatening and increase your risk of heart failure and stroke.

Arrhythmia causes

Arrhythmia causes may include:

  • coronary artery disease.
  • heart attack or scarring from previous heart attack.
  • diabetes.
  • high blood pressure.
  • cardiomyopathy.
  • COVID-19 infection.
  • sleep apnea.
  • drug or alcohol abuse.
  • overactive or underactive thyroid gland.
  • genetics.

Diagnosing heart arrhythmia

At the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute, we use the latest technologies to accurately diagnose and treat your arrhythmia.

Our Electrophysiology (EP) Program features sophisticated diagnostic equipment to test the electrical activity of your heart. Our heart rhythm specialists, or electrophysiologists, utilize advanced heart mapping equipment to pinpoint areas of the heart causing the arrhythmia There are different types of cardiac arrhythmias.

Types of arrhythmias include:

Atrial fibrillation (AFib)

In atrial fibrillation, your heart’s upper chambers contract irregularly.

Ventricular tachycardia (VT)

VT is a fast rhythm originating from the bottom chambers of the heart.


Bradycardia involves slow heart rates that may be unstable or cause symptoms.

Tachycardia arrhythmia

Tachycardia occurs when your resting heart rate is greater than 100 beats per minute.

Premature contractions

Premature contractions are extra heart beats that can originate in the top or bottom chamber of the heart. These beats can sometimes cause a fluttering or sensation of a skipped beat.

Arrhythmia Treatments

Our heart rhythm specialists, or electrophysiologists, utilize advanced heart mapping equipment to pinpoint areas of the heart causing the arrhythmia.

There are different types of cardiac arrhythmias.

Types of arrhythmias include:

Arrythmia medications

These medications are used to reduce symptoms and lower stroke risk:

Blood thinners or anticoagulants

These medications lower stroke risk by preventing blood clots from forming.

Heart rate controlling medications

These medications, also known as beta blockers and calcium channel blockers, help control heart rate and reduce symptoms related to fast heart rhythms.

Heart rhythm controlling medications or antiarrhythmic medications

These medications prevent and treat abnormal heart beats, helping your heart’s upper and lower chambers work together more efficiently.

Pacemakers and defibrillators

Pacemakers and defibrillators are implanted cardiac devices that send electrical impulses to your heart to restore and maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Electrical cardioversion

This is a procedure in which a controlled electrical shock is delivered to your heart. The shock disrupts the electrical pulses causing the irregular heartbeat and restores the heart’s normal rhythm.

Ablation procedures

During an ablation procedure, your doctor uses either heat (radiofrequency ablation) or cold (cryoablation) to destroy areas of heart tissue responsible for sending erratic electrical signals. The resulting scar tissue blocks the signals that cause arrhythmia.

We offer:

Catheter ablation

Catheter ablation is a minimally invasive procedure. Your doctor guides thin wires or catheters through a blood vessel in your groin to reach your heart. Targeted energy is used to treat the heart tissue so that it no longer beats out of rhythm.

Zero-fluoroscopy ablation

We’re a national leader in using 3D mapping and ultrasound instead of traditional radiation (X-ray) to perform specialized procedures to treat various arrhythmias. This process minimizes your exposure to radiation during the procedure.

Surgical Cox-maze procedure

The Cox-maze procedure is performed during open-heart surgery or with minimally invasive techniques with a small incision in the right chest. Your cardiac surgeon also removes the left atrial appendage during this procedure.

Left atrial appendage occlusion

The left atrial appendage is an area in the left upper chamber of the heart where blood clots often form when patients experience atrial fibrillation. Left atrial occlusion uses a permanent self-expanding device to seal off the heart’s left atrial appendage, preventing blood clots from causing a stroke.

AHN Atrial Fibrillation Program

We offer ongoing, comprehensive arrhythmia care at the AHN Atrial Fibrillation Program located within the AHN Cardiovascular Institute at Allegheny General Hospital.

Contact us

Call (412) DOCTORS (412) 362-8677 to request an appointment with AHN cardiovascular services.