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Bradycardia

Bradycardia is a slower than normal heart rate. The hearts of adults at rest usually beat between 60 and 100 times per minute. If you have bradycardia, your heart beats fewer than 60 beats per minute.

Bradycardia can be a serious problem if the heart doesn’t pump enough oxygen-rich blood to the body. For some people, however, it doesn’t cause symptoms or complications.

Bradycardia can be caused by:

  • Heart tissue damage related to aging
  • Damage to heart tissues from heart disease or heart attack
  • Heart disorder present at birth (congenital heart defect)
  • Infection of heart tissue (myocarditis)
  • A complication of heart surgery
  • Underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism)
  • Imbalance of chemicals in the blood, such as potassium or calcium
  • Repeated disruption of breathing during sleep (obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Inflammatory disease, such as rheumatic fever or lupus
  • Medications, including some drugs for other heart rhythm disorders, high blood pressure and psychosis

Signs & Symptoms

If a patient has bradycardia, the brain and other organs might not get enough oxygen, possibly causing these symptoms:

  • Near-fainting or fainting (syncope)
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pains
  • Confusion or memory problems
  • Easily tiring during physical activity

Diagnosis

To diagnose this condition, a Deborah physician will review any symptoms and complete medical and family medical history and do a physical examination.

The doctor will also order tests to measure heart rate, establish a link between a slow heart rate and your symptoms, and identify conditions that might be causing bradycardia. These tests might include:

Electrocardiogram (ECG or ExKG)

Because an ECG can’t record bradycardia unless it happens during the test, the doctor might have you use a portable ECG device at home. These devices include:

  • Holter monitor
  • Event recorder

The doctor might use an ECG monitor while performing other tests to understand the impact of bradycardia. These tests include:

  • Tilt table test
  • Exercise test

Laboratory and other tests

The doctor will order blood tests to screen for conditions that might be contributing to bradycardia, such as an infection, hypothyroidism or an electrolyte imbalance.

If sleep apnea is suspected of contributing to bradycardia, the patient might undergo sleep monitoring tests.