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Difference between arrhythmia and dysrhythmia

Arrhythmia vs dysrhythmia

A variation in the normal beating pattern or rhythm of the heart is called as arrhythmia or dysrhythmia. There is no gross difference between the two terms. Both describe that the pumping of the heart is slow, fast or simply not the normal count per minute. Sinus tachycardia is the term used to describe a faster than average heart beat and sinus bradycardia is the term for heart beat which is much slower than average. Sinus arrhythmia is the term used for the variations in the heart beats within normal limits, for example, during exercises or post exertion, during fever. The average heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. A rate below 60 is considered as too slow (bradycardia) and beyond 100 as too fast (tachycardia).

Arrhythmia may occur at the level of the atria, ventricles or arise from the junctions from where the electrical impulses start. These broad groupings based on the origin of the malfunction of the beat are further classified into subgroups based on the exact pattern of the abnormal heart beat. Atrial Arrhythmia may manifest as atrial flutter or atrial fibrillation or atrial premature contractions. Ventricular Arrhythmia may manifest as premature ventricular contractions or as ventricular fibrillation. The Junctional Arrhythmias may present in the form of a supraventricular tachycardia or as premature junctional contractions. Heart block, partial or complete, which is a condition of bradycardia is also a type of arrhythmia.

Arrhythmia may cause an irregularly heightened awareness of the heart beat in some persons, i.e. palpitations. Direct consequences of a rapidly beating heart are an abnormally rapid blood circulation that can lead to embolisation (dislodging of a plague of cholesterol from the artery wall), high blood pressure and decreased cardiac output. If there is bradycardia, then due to a sluggish circulation, there may be slowing down of the heart to the extent that it may stop beating. Lesser serious effects of bradycardia can be clotting of the blood inside the heart itself and this clot might get dislocated to various other locations causing further damage. In rare cases, arrhythmias are harmless and mild and do not cause any complications.

Arrhythmias go unnoticed most of the times as they will be detected only when the physician auscultate the chest and confirm it by checking the pulse of the person. Once this suspicion is felt by the physician, then one may confirm the diagnosis by taking an electrocardiogram of the heart. A continuous monitoring of the electrical activity of the heart by electrocardiogram is called as holter monitoring of the heart is helpful in making diagnosis of patients where a resting cardiogram is normal. One must be careful while diagnosing this condition as bradycardia may be normal amongst atheletes. Tachycardia can be normal for hyperactive individuals or may be due to hyperthyroidism in some patients. These cases should not be confused with Arrhythmia and hence, proper detailed history should be taken.

Treatment for Arrhythmia is either by medications or electrical manipulations based on the kind of arrythmia. Medications which are anti-arrhythmic and which are skillfully combined with anti-clotting drugs whenever necessary are extremely beneficial in cases. Other than medications, certain people are benefited positively by applying shock through electrodes either internally or externally. Electrical manipulations via Cardioversion and defebrillation are important steps in treatment of ventricular fibrillation. Cardiac pacing with pace makers is another process; depending upon the type of Arrhythmia it can be temporary or permanent.

Summary: Arrhythmia and Dysrhythmia are both the same and hence used interchangeably while referring to an altered beating pattern/rate of the heart. Treatment depends on the cause of the malfunction. The condition is mostly reversible.

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