What Types Of Abnormal Heart Rhythms Are More Common In Children?

Question: What types of abnormal heart rhythms are more common in children?

Answer :There are many arrhythmias that are actually not serious or life threatening arrhythmias that we sometimes see in children. The term "sinus arrhythmia" is just a change in heart rate with inspiration and expiration. So, although it's termed arrhythmia, it's actually completely normal to have sinus arrhythmia, and we see this in many children and adults.

There are also extra beats that can come from the atrium and the ventricle. PACs, or premature atrial contractions, or PVCs, which are premature ventricular contractions, are early beats that come from the atrium or the ventricle and many children will not even know that they're having these. There're often picked up on a routine physical examination when the pediatrician or family doctor hears an irregular heart beat.

It is important, though, to be tested to be sure that these are not signs of a more serious arrhythmia. The testing may include an ECG, or electrocardiogram, a Holter monitor, or some type of exercise testing.

There are more serious arrhythmias that can occur, the most common of which are supraventricular tachycardia, or SVT, and these are due to extra electrical pathways that are located in the heart that can lead to palpitations, shortness of breath and lightheadedness, if your child has these.

So, if your child is complaining of these, it's very important to be evaluated by a specialist who can do further testing to ensure that everything is okay. If your child does have an arrhythmia like supraventricular tachycardia, he or she may require treatment with an antiarrhythmic medication that helps control the heart rate and rhythm, or he or she may be a candidate for catheter ablation therapy to help cure the arrhythmia.

It's rare for children to have life-threatening arrhythmias. If they do they may have episodes of fainting or seizures or may have a near-sudden death event. This is rare, but it can run in families so if you have a family member who has had an episode of fainting or seizures or early sudden death, it's very important for the entire family to be evaluated to ensure that this is not an inherited arrhythmia.