Irregular Heart Rhythm (Arrhythmia) Treatment

What is irregular heart rhythm treatment?

Irregular heart rhythm treatment aims to treat heart arrhythmias, a condition where the heart beats:

  • Too slowly (below 50 beats per minute)
  • Too quickly (above 100 beats per minute)
  • At an irregular pace

There are several kinds of arrhythmias. Of these conditions, atrial fibrillation (also called AF or AFib) is the most common type of arrhythmia; it tends to affects those aged 60 years and older.

Depending on your age, overall heart health, and any underlying causes of arrhythmia, your treatment may include one or more of the following:

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes can improve overall heart health and manage other underlying conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease.

These lifestyle changes include:

  • Exercising regularly.
  • Eating heart-healthy foods.
  • Avoiding nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, dietary and herbal supplements.
  • Managing your blood pressure and blood sugar.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight, which also helps to manage symptoms of atrial fibrillation and improve the results of catheter ablation.
  • Managing stress and sleep disorders.


To restore normal heart rhythm and prevent a relapse of arrhythmias, anti-arrhythmic medication may be given to:

  • Slow the transmission of impulses
  • Suppress abnormal firing of pacemaker tissue

Other medications such as blood thinners, calcium channel blockers, beta blockers or anticoagulants may also be prescribed to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of blood clots and stroke.


Cardioversion converts an abnormally fast heart rate to a normal rhythm. There are 2 forms of cardioversion:

  1. Chemical cardioversion, which uses medication.
  2. Electric cardioversion, which uses electrical shocks sent through electrodes to the heart. This takes less time than chemical cardioversion.

Additional procedures are often needed to maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Catheter ablation

Catheter ablation is a non-surgical procedure that ablates (removes) the affected area of the heart.

It is the most common type of irregular heart rhythm treatment for atrial fibrillation. It is also an option for ventricular fibrillation and for those at risk of sudden cardiac arrest.

Catheter ablation is recommended when the arrhythmia cannot be controlled by medicine or cardioversion.

Pacemaker implantation

If your arrhythmia is serious, you may need a permanent cardiac pacemaker. A pacemaker works by continuously monitoring the heart rhythm. If there is an abnormal heart rate, the pacemaker will emit an electrical charge to reset the heart to a normal rhythm.

A pacemaker may be recommended for those who have had or are at risk for cardiac arrest.

Cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) implantation

If your arrhythmia is serious, you may need an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD is a small battery-powered device.

This device is smaller than a deck of cards and contains a small computer that monitors the heart rate and delivers small electrical shocks when needed to regulate any electrical problems

An ICD is able to perform cardioversion, defibrillation and pacing of the heart.

Using an ICD does not reverse heart disease, but can reduce the risk of cardiac arrest. ICD is the preferred treatment for patients at risk for sudden cardiac death due to:

  • Ventricular fibrillation, where the heart's electrical impulses are rapid and chaotic. This causes the lower chamber of the heart to quiver ineffectively instead of pumping blood to the body.
  • Ventricular tachycardia, a condition where the heart rate is fast and abnormal. This does not allow the lower chamber of the heart to fill and contract efficiently, making it difficult to pump enough blood to the body.

Surgical ablation

Surgical ablation, also known as a maze procedure, is a major surgery done under general anaesthesia. Surgery is usually done only when all other treatments have not been successful.

During the surgery:

  • Small incisions, radiowaves, freezing, or ultrasound energy are used to create scar tissue in the heart muscle.
  • This scar tissue does not conduct electrical activity so the abnormal electrical signals causing the arrhythmia are blocked.
  • The scar tissue directs electric signals through a controlled path of scar tissue (the maze) to the lower heart chambers (ventricles).

A maze procedure may be done through small cuts in the chest or as open-heart surgery.

If you are already doing heart surgery (e.g. coronary artery bypass or valve repair or replacement), your surgeon may recommend surgical ablation as a concurrent procedure.

Why do you need irregular heart rhythm treatment?

The goal of irregular heart rhythm treatment is to:

  • Restore normal heart rhythm where possible
  • Reduce the risk for serious complications and heart disease
  • Restore quality of life

Your doctor may advise irregular heart rhythm treatment if your:

  • Symptoms are severe
  • Arrhythmias are highly irregular
  • Arrhythmia is caused by a weak or damaged heart
  • Condition increases the risk for dangerous complications such as stroke and heart failure

Catheter ablation and atrial fibrillation

Studies indicate that catheter ablation for atrial fibrillation successfully improves the condition at a rate of 95 - 98%, even after medication is stopped.

Clinical studies have also demonstrated that catheter ablation:

  • Is more effective at restoring and maintaining a normal heart rhythm compared to medication. This reduces the need for life-long treatment and the side effects linked with medication.
  • Can improve heart function.

What are the risks and complications of irregular heart rhythm treatment?

Depending on the treatment, side effects of arrhythmia treatment can include:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Hypotension
  • Heart failure
  • Tremors
  • Headache
  • Depression
  • Seizures

When choosing the most suitable treatment option for your condition, you and your doctor must consider the potential benefits and associated risks.

Why choose Gleneagles Hospitals?

At Gleneagles Hospital, our team of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons are known in Singapore and the region for their expertise in treating complex heart conditions.

Embark on your journey to recovery in the comfort and privacy of well-appointed rooms staffed by our dedicated team of professional nurses and therapists.

Estimated cost

Private healthcare can be affordable. Use our Hospital Bill Estimator to determine the estimated cost of this procedure. If you have hospital insurance, find out how you can use your insurance.

Our cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons

At Gleneagles Hospital, we offer a comprehensive heart and vascular programme through our team of cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons. Treat your heart arrhythmias holistically with expert help from our specialists.

Please check with your insurance provider for more information, and for their most up-to-date list of panel doctors.

^Specialists may qualify to be on the Extended Panel (EP). You may enjoy selected panel benefits depending on your policy and riders.
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