Overview of the Heart
The heart is a large muscle located in the middle of the chest cavity and protected by the rib cage. With each heartbeat, the muscle contracts, pumping blood out of one of its four chambers and into the circulatory system. The heart is actually kept in motion by electricity. The electrical current of a heart beat originates in the sinus located at the top of the right atrium. This is said to be the heart’s pacemaker.
A full-grown adult should have a resting heart rate of 60-100 beats per minute.
The autonomic system regulates the heartbeat using a complicated network of nerves, while the adrenal and thyroid glands send hormones and adrenaline to it. The heart beats at such a steady pace that any abnormalities are easily and quickly identified. If the heart beats too slowly, it is said to be bradycardic. If it beats too quickly it’s tachycardia. Strangely patterned heartbeats are an anomaly and are referred to as arrhythmias.
When heart disease and deterioration makes the heart unable to beat rhythmically on its own, an artificial pacemaker is inserted. Artificial pacemakers are electronic devices that do the work of a natural pacemaker. It is a small device that gets inserted under the skin usually under the collar bone and connected to important veins via electrical wire. A pacemaker can last more than a decade.
Sick Sinus Syndrome
When a pacemaker malfunctions stops working completely, another region of the heart automatically takes over the role and function of the pacemaker. This area is calledconveniently enoughthe escape pacemaker. Pacemakers can fail for any number of reasons. When the precise cause of the dysfunction is unknown, the patient is said to be experiencing sick sinus syndrome. Sick sinus syndrome may present as bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome, or a swapping back and forth of too many slow beats followed by too many slow beats.
The symptoms of sick sinus syndrome include:
Persistent slow heart rate
In order to properly diagnose sick sinus syndrome, a doctor will take a brief medical history about the patient’s particular type of heart failure as well as any additional information that might be medically relevant. The quickest and easiest way to assess the situation is to perform an ECGelectrocardiography.
If the heart rate is found to be too slow, the patient is given permanent artificial pacemaker. Prescription medications such as beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers are administered as well.