Abnormal Heart Rhythms (Arrhythmias)

What is an arrhythmia?

The word arrhythmia comes from the Greek (meaning "without rhythm") and refers to an irregular heartbeat. If you have an arrhythmia your heart may beat too quickly (what's known as tachycardia) or too slowly (a condition known as bradycardia), or your heart may simply beat erratically. All arrhythmias occur as a result of disruption of the electrical signals that tell the heart to beat at regular intervals of 60 to 100 beats per minute.

Symptoms of arrhythmias

While some people experience no symptoms of arrhythmia, others may notice:

  • Heart palpitations or fluttering
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Shortness of breath

Types of arrhythmias

While some types of arrhythmias are harmless, others such as ventricular fibrillation and atrial fibrillation can significantly affect the heart's ability to pump blood, which then affects blood flow to vital organs.

Causes of arrhythmias

Arrhythmia may be caused by behavioral and lifestyle factors such as stress, drinking too much caffeine, or smoking, or by medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or an electrolyte imbalance in the blood.


People with atrial fibrillation (AFib) have a five times greater risk of stroke—and stroke that is related to AFib is often more disabling and fatal. Our goal is to help reduce your risk of stroke and sudden cardiac death with a range of treatment options that includes medication therapy, radiofrequency ablation, cryoablation and implantable devices with remote monitoring.

For our patients with heart rhythm disorders such as atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia, our experienced team of electrophysiologists, cardiac surgeons and advanced practitioners will work together to develop a treatment plan just for you by applying the most innovative and least invasive techniques and procedures available.

Heart Catheterization


If you have an arrhythmia your doctor may recommend cardioversion, a painless procedure that “resets” your heartbeat to a normal rhythm.

Pacemaker Implant Surgery

A pacemaker is a small implantable device that sends low-energy electrical signals to the heart to correct abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia) or to minimize heart “quivering.”

Pacemaker/ICD Lead Extraction or Revision

Sometimes, pacemaker and ICD leads stop working properly due to damage or scar tissue accumulation. Infections can also develop at the site of a lead. In these cases the lead needs to be removed and/or replaced.

Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD)

An ICD may be recommended if you have a life-threatening arrhythmia or if you have had a heart attack or survived sudden cardiac arrest.

Cardiac Resynchronization Therapy

CRT involves the use of a special (biventricular) pacemaker to reset, or resynchronize the beat of the heart by causing the ventricles to contract normally.

Left Atrial Appendage Closure (LAAC) Device

Left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) devices such as Watchman and LARIAT offer some patients with non-valvular atrial fibrillation an attractive alternative to anticoagulants like warfarin.

Maze Procedure

At Lankenau, maze procedure is a highly effective treatment for patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib), is often done minimally invasively with robotic assistance with the goal of interrupting the electrical impulses responsible for the chaotic heart rhythm.

Why choose Lankenau Heart Institute for cardiac arrhythmia care

Conveniently located just outside of Philadelphia, Lankenau heart Institute has a highly specialized cardiac arrhythmia team known worldwide for their experience in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders.

Here are a few more reasons to let us care for your heart:

  • Access to breakthrough technologies and treatments. Our clinicians have been involved in research resulting in FDA-approved blood-thinning medications to reduce stroke risk. We also have expertise in implanting newly approved left atrial appendage closure (LAAC) devices (WATCHMAN), which prevent movement of blood clots that can cause stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation.
  • Device implant experience – volumes. We are a high-volume center with vast experience implanting pacemakers and ICDs (implantable cardioverter defibrillator), including the leadless Micra Transcatheter Pacing System and the MRI-safe cardiac resynchronization therapy defibrillator (CRT-Ds).
  • Remote monitoring – a watchful eye on your heart at all times. Short- and long-term monitoring of your arrhythmia device allows us to diagnose and monitor your condition, and act quickly if needed.
  • Expertise in catheter ablation. This minimally-invasive treatment for ventricular tachycardia allows our surgeons to send energy to the exact region of your heart where irregular heartbeats originate and to destroy tissue that may cause irregularity.
  • Ability to identify inherited heart rhythm disorders. Our experts have experience diagnosing hereditary arrhythmias such as long QT syndrome and Brugada syndrome. Diagnosis involves a complexity of testing and skilled interpretation of the results to help us understand what’s causing your arrhythmia—and how the genetic trait may affect other family members.
  • Specialists in removing pacemakers and leads. Removing pacemakers and defibrillator leads is a complex procedure performed by our skilled specialists with surgical support on hand. Nearly 95 percent of our patients have their leads removed without the need for open-heart surgery.

Heart and Vascular clinical trials at Main Line Health

Main Line Health uses clinical trials to help prevent, diagnose and treat the full range of heart and vascular conditions. Learn more about the cardiovascular clinical trials currently being offered by our renowned cardiologists and heart and vascular surgeons.