Bradycardia (also known as bradyarrhythmia) is a slower than normal heart rate. For patients with bradycardia, heart beats are fewer than 60 times a minute, instead of the usual heart beat range between 60 and 100 times per minute for an adult at rest.
Patients may feel chest discomfort, exercise intolerance, shortness of breath, fainting or giddiness.
Bradycardia can be a response to chronic atheletic training and is harmless. More commonly bradycardia is a result of slow electrical activity resulting in the slow heart rate which may result in poor circulation causing symptoms.
The causes of pathological bradycardia can be due to sinus node dysfunction or conduction tissue disease, which may in turn be due to disease processes or medications.
Diagnosis typically begins with a physical examination with a slow pulse of rate less than 60 bearts per minute (bpm). ECG and Holter may reveal the underlying cause of the bradycardia and the look for electrical pause. Occasionally electrophysiology may help in assessment of the sinus node and conduction system of the heart.
Treatment for bradycardia depends on the cause of slow heart rate, severity of symptoms and the type of electrical conduction problem.
If an underlying disorder is causing the slow heart rate, treatment of the disorder may correct bradycardia.
Certain medications can cause bradycardia. Lowering dosages or changing your medication improve the heart rate. Your doctor will check your medication consumptions and may recommend alternative treatments.
If alternative treatments are not working or not possible, a pacemaker is necessary. A pacemaker is a battery-operated device which is used to generate and deliver impulse to the heart to prevent a pause or bradycardia.