Arrhythmia Children

Arrhythmia refers to a condition that either speeds up or slows down a person’s heart rate. Arrhythmia can also refer to a condition where a person has irregular heartbeats, or heart palpitations.

Children and adults alike are affected by arrhythmia, but children with the condition will often outgrow arrhythmia over time.

Arrhythmia Symptoms in Children

Premature heartbeats and extra heartbeats are the most common symptoms in children, but dizziness, light-headedness and fainting can also occur. Children may not have as much energy as normal.

Infants who are fussier or sleepier than usual may be suffering from a form of arrhythmia.

Report any symptoms to a doctor. If a doctor suspects an arrhythmia condition in a child, he or she will most likely refer the child to a cardiologist for specialized diagnosis and treatment.

Tachycardia and Bradycardia

Arrhythmia that causes the heart to beat too slowly is called bradycardia, while arrhythmia that causes the heart to beat too quickly is called tachycardia.

Tachycardia has a few variations, including sinus tachycardia, superventricular tachycardia and ventricular tachycardia.

Sinus Tachycardia

Sinus tachycardia does not usually require treatment, and usually means that heart rate increases when a child is excited, exercising or experiencing a fever. Sinus tachycardia is a normal increase in heart rate. The condition can be the result of anemia or a thyroid problem as well; if this is the case, the sinus tachycardia will disappear with treatment of the underlying condition.

Superventricular Tachycardia

Superventricular tachycardia (SVT) is the most common type of arrhythmia in children. SVT can be a lifelong problem, but in most cases is not serious enough to require medication. For SVT cases that result in prolonged or severe tachycardial episodes, medication can be prescribed.

SVT can be detected very early on in a child’s life, even before birth. Infants who are fussy or more sleepy than usual may be exhibiting signs of SVT.

Older children are often aware of the fact that their heartbeat is fast or increases, and they can also feel dizzy or lightheaded. Some can learn to control their heart rate simply by straining their face muscles or putting ice on their face.

Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular tachycardia (VT) is a rarer and more serious form of arrhythmia, and can even threaten the child’s life. VT should be diagnosed immediately by a doctor. Medication or other therapy may be necessary to treat the condition. VT is often the result of a far more serious heart issue.

Premature Arterial Contraction (PAC) and Premature Ventricular Contraction (PVC)

PAC and PVC result in premature or extra heartbeats. Often, a heartbeat will come too early and will result in the next heartbeat being extra hard. Most people experience this feeling at some point in their lives, and usually no treatment is necessary. A doctor may examine a child further if other symptoms are present or the problem occurs frequently.

Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW)

Many children with WPW don’t have symptoms or episodes of tachycardia, but the disease causes a signal to arrive at the ventricles sooner than normal due to an abnormal pathway. This problem can be corrected using medication or surgery.

Sick Sinus Syndrome

This condition often occurs in children who have undergone heart surgery, and in many it requires the use of a pacemaker or medication. The condition is uncommon, and results in episodes of tachycardia and bradycardia.

Resources

American Heart Association (2007). Types of Arrhythmia in Children. Retrieved on June 28, 2007, from: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=7.

Penn State Children’s Hospital (2006). Arrythmia. Retrieved June 28, 2007, from: http://www.hmc.psu.edu/childrens/healthinfo/a/arrhythmia.htm.