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Arrhythmias

A pediatric arrhythmia is any change in heartbeat. Heart rate can race, slow or skip.

What are Arrhythmias?

An arrhythmia is a heart condition where there is a change in heart rate — either too quick (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or it’s skipping a beat (palpitations). It may be the result of a heart defect or caused by outside factors like illness, fever, exercise, trauma, or a reaction to allergens or medicines.

What are the different types of Arrhythmias?

There are 11 types of pediatric arrhythmias, which are grouped into the three categories: atrial, ventricular and bradyarrhythmias.

Atrial arrhythmias (relating to the upper two chambers of the heart)

  • Atrial fibrillation – An irregular, rapid heart rate that commonly causes poor blood circulation.
  • Atrial flutter – Occurs when the heart’s upper chambers beat too quickly.
  • AV nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) – Rapid heartbeat due to more than one path through the AV node (part of the electrical conduction system that manages the top of the heart).
  • Premature atrial contractions (PACs) – Causes early, extra heart beats that start in the upper chambers.
  • Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) – Causes a rapid heart rate in both the upper and lower chambers.
  • Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome – Occurs when an extra electrical pathway between the upper and lower chambers of the heart cause a rapid heartbeat.

Ventricular arrhythmias (relating to the lower two chambers of the heart)

  • Premature ventricular contractions (PVCs) – Causes early, extra heart beats that start in the lower chambers.
  • Ventricular fibrillation – Causes rapid, inadequate heartbeat. This condition is the most serious of the arrhythmias and can be life-threatening.
  • Ventricular tachycardia (V-tach) – Causes fast, irregular electrical impulses that begin in the heart's ventricle. It can be a life-threatening condition.

Bradyarrhythmias

  • Heart block – Causes a delay or complete stop of the electrical impulses from the sinus node (the heart’s natural pacemaker, located in the right, upper heart chamber) to the ventricles.
  • Sinus node dysfunction – Causes a slow heart rhythm.

What are the signs and symptoms of Arrhythmias?

  • Difficulty or uninterested in eating (especially with newborns in the first 28 days)
  • Fainting
  • Chest Pain
  • Pale coloring
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy (exhaustion)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sweating
  • Irritability