Arrhythmia Treatment

Arrhythmia Treatment

Atrial Fibrillation (Afib), Ventricular Tachycardia

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Duke's electrophysiologists use the latest medical advances to personalize arrhythmia treatment, including treatment for the most common arrhythmia -- atrial fibrillation (Afib) -- as well as ventricular tachycardia. Our heart specialists prescribe medication, perform cardiac ablation, implant pacemakers, and recommend other cardiac devices to help you manage your symptoms and return your heart to a normal rhythm. Effective arrhythmia treatment lowers your risk of heart failure and stroke so you can lead a more active life.

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Arrhythmia Treatment

When you have atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, or other forms of arrhythmia, prompt treatment is key to your heart health.

Medications

Slow your heart rate, stabilize irregular heartbeats, and reduce the effects and risks of an abnormal heartbeat. Blood-thinning (anticoagulants) medications may be prescribed to reduce stroke risk following atrial fibrillation. Two of the three newer anticoagulants were studied at Duke, which gives us the knowledge and expertise to reduce stroke risk in people with atrial fibrillation while minimizing potential bleeding complications.

Cardiac Catheter Ablation

Performed using a thin, flexible tube inserted in a blood vessel. This minimally invasive procedure that uses energy to cauterize the exact heart regions where irregular heartbeats originate. We perform the full range of standard and investigational ablation techniques in our specialized procedure rooms called cath labs.

Surgical Ablation

Performed through incisions in the chest. Often performed with other heart surgeries, such as coronary bypass surgery or repair of leaky or narrowed heart valves.

Implanted Cardiac Devices

Stimulate and reset your heart's rhythm. We implant more than 1,000 pacemakers, defibrillators, and arrhythmia management systems annually. Many times we use a nonsurgical approach, during which leads are inserted into the heart through a vein under the collarbone, to minimize risk and shorten recovery time. 

Lead Extraction for Implanted Cardiac Devices

Leads from implanted devices that malfunction, fracture, or are linked to infection are removed by electrophysiologists and surgeons who work together in our hybrid operating rooms. As a result of our experience, nearly 95 percent of leads are removed without the need for open heart surgery.

Left Atrial Appendage Closure Devices

Devices are implanted during a minimally invasive procedure to close off or block the area of the heart where blood clots that cause stroke are most likely to form as a result of arrhythmia.

Our Locations
Duke Health has heart clinics in the Triangle and across North Carolina. Find one near you.

Tests

Various types of tests and imaging will accurately diagnose your arrhythmia. Your doctor will determine which tests are appropriate for you.

Electrocardiogram

Small electrodes placed on the skin record your heart’s electrical activity and help diagnose arrhythmia.

Echocardiogram

Uses ultrasound to capture images of your heart to measure its size, shape, and function.

MRI Scan

Uses a strong magnetic field to capture images of your heart to measure size, shape, scar tissue, and function. It may be used to image your pulmonary veins before an atrial fibrillation ablation procedure or the ventricles in your heart in the case of ventricular arrhythmia.

CT Scan

Uses X-ray and computerized reconstruction to image your heart or other structures in different slices and angles. It may be used to image your pulmonary veins before an atrial fibrillation ablation procedure.

Holter or Event Monitors

A Holter monitor records your arrhythmia continuously for 24-hours (or longer). An event monitor may be used to record when abnormal heart rhythms take place. Some monitors use electrodes placed on the surface of your skin; others are implanted underneath your skin. Some cardiac event monitors have a device for you to activate recording when you feel symptoms.

Stress Test

A motorized treadmill or bicycle is used to increase the workload on your heart to study your heart rhythm and reproduce symptoms or arrhythmias.

Tilt Test

Recording of heart rate and rhythm and blood pressure while you are tilted to an upright (near standing) position to try to diagnose causes of fainting.

Electrophysiology (EP) study

In a cath lab, a thin, flexible wire is inserted through an artery or peripheral vein to stimulate your heart and pinpoint the origin of irregular or infrequent abnormal electrical signals.

Catheter Mapping

Performed during an EP study before ablating any tissue, this involves manipulating catheters inside or outside the heart to collect electrical signals and often uses computerized systems to help interpret the recordings in order to pinpoint the origin of the arrhythmia. This procedure also takes place in a cath lab.

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Why Choose Duke

Setting the Standard for Arrhythmia Treatment
Our specially trained electrophysiologists treat nearly 1,700 people with arrhythmias each year -- among the highest number in the Southeast. We continually evaluate new treatment approaches and have achieved some of the lowest complication rates associated with cardiac ablation, a common treatment for atrial fibrillation (Afib) and ventricular tachycardia. Our research and expertise help set the standard for arrhythmia treatment nationwide.

Sophisticated Mapping Techniques
Your cardiac ablation will be performed by electrophysiologists trained in the most advanced ablation techniques available, including heart mapping for spiral waves and focus beats, which can shorten procedure time. Computer-guided treatments stabilize the catheter and more accurately guide its movement within the heart. As a result, the problem area is treated and the likelihood of repeat procedures is reduced. Over the past two years, fewer than ten percent of our patients have needed a repeat ablation -- a rate less than half the average.

Specialized Procedures for Less-Common Arrhythmia
Duke is among a handful of centers with substantial expertise in epicardial catheter ablation, which treats ventricular tachycardia that occurs on the heart’s outer surface.

Skilled Geneticists
Our genetic heart disease program is one of the only centers in the Southeast with adult and pediatric experts who can interpret the complex tests required to identify inherited heart rhythm disorders such as the long QT and Brugada syndromes. Pinpointing the cause of your arrhythmia helps us take a proactive approach to treatment, prevents the possibility of sudden cardiac death, and ensures your family is well-informed of any increased risk.

Skilled in Pacemaker Removal
Our team includes specialists trained in removing pacemakers and defibrillator leads when necessary. This complex procedure is performed alongside heart surgeons who can provide surgical support. Nearly 95 percent of our patients have their leads removed without the need for open heart surgery.

Expertise in Optimizing Devices
Cardiac resynchronization therapy can be very beneficial for people with heart failure and arrhythmia, but some people do not respond to the therapy at first. We use cardiac MRI to help identify problems and pace treatment.

Long-Term Care for Implanted Devices
We provide comprehensive, long-term care to ensure your implanted device functions properly and is not subject to device recalls.

Options for High-Risk Patients
We assess and care for people with a prior unsuccessful catheter or surgical ablation. We provide hope to people with complex heart rhythm conditions.

Best Heart Hospital in NC
When it comes to your heart care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked the best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.