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Discharge Instructions for Arrhythmias

Arrhythmias are abnormal beats of the heart. Types of arrhythmias are:

  • Heartbeats that are too slow—bradycardia
  • Heartbeats that are too fast—tachycardia
  • Extra beats
  • Skipped beats
  • Beats coming from abnormal areas of the heart

Some arrhythmias don't need to be treated. Others can be life-threatening. These may need medicines or an implantable device to help regulate your heart.

What You Will Need

Depending the type you have, you may be sent home with a holter monitor. A holter monitor records your heart’s electrical activity. It's done over a period of time, usually 24 hours. This portable EKG tells your doctor how your heart is working as you go about your day.

Steps to Take

Home Care

You may be asked to monitor your pulse, blood pressure, or fluid intake when you are home.

Diet

You may need to:

  • Eat a diet that's low in saturated fat and salt, and rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
  • Limit or stay away from food and drinks that have caffeine and alcohol.

Physical Activity

Regular exercise will keep your heart healthy. Work with your doctor to create a routine that is right for you.

Ask your doctor when you will be able to return to work. Don't drive unless your doctor says it's okay to do so.

Medications

The type of medicine prescribed depends on the type of arrhythmia you have. You may need:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Anti-arrhythmic drugs
  • Blood thinning drugs

If you are taking medicines:

  • Take the medicine as directed. Don’t change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medicine.
  • Don’t share your prescription medicine.
  • Medicines can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one medicine. This includes over-the-counter products and supplements.
  • Plan for refills as needed.

Lifestyle Changes

Your doctor will work with you on some life changes to help you get better faster. Some things to keep in mind:

  • If you smoke, ask your doctor about ways to quit.
  • Keep your weight in a healthy range.

Your doctor may ask you to carry a card in your wallet that explains your arrhythmia or device.

Prevention

If you have a pacemaker or defibrillator, your healthcare team will teach you how to take care of it so it works properly.

Follow-up

You'll need to see your doctor on a regular basis. You may need more tests such as EKGs or blood tests. Go to all scheduled appointments.

Call Your Doctor If Any of the Following Occur

Call your doctor if you're not getting better as expected or you have other problems such as:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Rapid, irregular heartbeat
  • Palpitations
  • Breathing problems
  • Weakness or fainting

If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
https://www.heart.org

Heart Rhythm Society
https://www.hrsonline.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
https://www.heartandstroke.ca

REFERENCES:

Arrhythmia. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/arrhythmia. Updated June 19, 2017. Accessed December 12, 2018.

Arrhythmia. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/arrhythmia. Accessed December 12, 2018.

Arrhythmia. Texas Heart Institute website. Available at: https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/heart-information-center/topics/arrhythmia. Accessed December 12, 2018.

12/9/2013 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillancehttp://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115449/Dietary-considerations-for-cardiovascular-disease-prevention. Bao Y, Han J, Hu FB, et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J med. 2013;369(21):2001-2011.

Last reviewed December 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 12/12/2018