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People who died from Cardiac arrhythmia

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The term cardiac arrhythmia covers a very large number of very different conditions.

The term "arrhythmia" refers to any change from the normal sequence of electrical impulses. The electrical impulses may happen too fast, too slowly, or irregularly / erratically – causing the heart to beat too fast, too slowly, or erratically. When the heart doesn't beat properly, it can't pump blood effectively. When the heart doesn't pump blood effectively, the lungs, brain and all other organs can't work properly and may shut down or be damaged.


Cardiac arrhythmia, also known as cardiac dysrhythmia or irregular heartbeat, is a group of conditions in which the heartbeat is irregular, too fast, or too slow. A heart rate that is too fast – above 100 beats per minute in adults – is called tachycardia and a heart rate that is too slow – below 60 beats per minute – is called bradycardia. Many types of arrhythmia have no symptoms. When symptoms are present these may include palpitations or feeling a pause between heartbeats. More seriously there may be lightheadedness, passing out, shortness of breath, or chest pain. While most types of arrhythmia are not serious, some predispose a person to complications such as stroke or heart failure. Others may result in cardiac arrest.

There are four main types of arrhythmia: extra beats, supra ventricular tachycardias (very fast heart rate) (very fast heart rate), ventricular arrhythmias (disorganized contraction of the lower chambers of the heart), and bradyarrhythmias (slow heart rate).

  • Extra beats include premature atrial contractions, premature ventricular contractions, and premature junctional contractions.
  • Supraventricular tachycardias include atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter, and paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia.
  • Ventricular arrhythmias include ventricular fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.
  • Arrhythmias are due to problems with the electrical conduction system of the heart (heart does not beat normally.
  • Arrhythmias may occur in children; however, the normal range for the heart rate is different and depends on age.

Classification Arrhythmia may be classified by rate (tachycardia, bradycardia), mechanism (automaticity, re-entry, triggered) or duration (isolated premature beats; couplets; runs, that is 3 or more beats; non-sustained= less than 30 seconds or sustained= over 30 seconds); and by site of origin (atrial, junctional, ventricular, and atrioventricular blocks).

  • There is also Sudden arrhythmic death syndrome, a term used to describe sudden death due to cardiac arrest brought on by an arrhythmia in the presence or absence of any structural heart disease on autopsy.
    • Sudden cardiac arrest is not a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
    • Heart attacks occur when there is a blockage in one or more of the coronary arteries, preventing the heart from receiving enough oxygen-rich blood. If the oxygen in the blood cannot reach the heart muscle, the heart becomes damaged.
    • In contrast, sudden cardiac arrest occurs when the electrical system to the heart malfunctions and suddenly becomes very irregular. The heart beats dangerously fast.
    • Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes (SADS) are genetic heart conditions that can cause sudden death in young, apparently healthy, people. These conditions can be treated and deaths can be prevented.

Most arrhythmias can be effectively treated. A number of tests can help with diagnosis including an electrocardiogram (ECG) and Holter monitor. Treatments may include medications, medical procedures such as a pacemaker, and surgery. Medications for a fast heart rate may include beta blockers or agents that attempt to restore a normal heart rhythm such as procainamide. This later group may have more significant side effects especially if taken for a long period of time. Pacemakers are often used for slow heart rates. Those with an irregular heartbeat are often treated with blood thinners to reduce the risk of complications. Those who have severe symptoms from an arrhythmia may receive urgent treatment with a jolt of electricity in the form of cardioversion or defibrillation.

Statistics:

Arrhythmia affects millions of people. In Europe and North America, as of 2014, atrial fibrillation affects about 2% to 3% of the population. Atrial fibrillation and atrial flutter resulted in 112,000 deaths in 2013, up from 29,000 in 1990. Sudden cardiac death is the cause of about half of deaths due to cardiovascular disease or about 15% of all deaths globally. About 80% of sudden cardiac death is the result of ventricular arrhythmias. Arrhythmias may occur at any age but are more common among older people.

  • Sudden cardiac death (SCD)
    • A sudden, unexpected death caused by loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest). Sudden cardiac death is the largest cause of natural death in the United States, causing about 325,000 adult deaths in the United States each year. Sudden cardiac death is responsible for half of all heart disease deaths.
    • Sudden cardiac death occurs most frequently in adults in their mid-30s to mid-40s, and affects men twice as often as it does women.
    • This condition is rare in children, affecting only 1 to 2 per 100,000 children each year.
    • Each year in the United States, approximately 210,000 Americans die suddenly and unexpectedly due to Sudden Cardiac Arrest. (American Heart Association 2017)
  • 10-12% of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) cases are due to Long QT Syndrome.
  • LQTS is now known to be 3 times more common in the US than childhood leukemia.
  • 1 in 200,000 high school athletes in the US will die suddenly, most without any prior symptoms—JAMA 1996; 276
  • More than 250,000 people die each year in the United States from sudden cardiac deaths, and most of those are thought to be from ventricular fibrillation.
  • The most common form of arrhythmia is atrial fibrillation, which currently affects more than 2.2 million Americans, according to the AMA. About 70 percent are between 65 and 85 years old. That is non-threatening and treatable.
  • Most fatal arrhythmias occur in association with other heart problems, valve problems, blockages and coronary heart disease, according to Dr. Tristram Bahnson, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center.
  • "Young people often get them in conjunction with congenital heart problems, ranging from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (thickened heart) to coronary arteries coming off the aorta in an unusual way," he told ABCNews.com.
  • Cardiac problems can be Genetic (Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes)
    • Though an autopsy has not yet been completed on Kelly Breslin, EKGs done at the hospital indicated a heart irregularity, according to The New York Times, perhaps suggesting a more dangerous form of arrhythmia caused by an underlying genetic defect.
    • Breslin, who worked in public relations, had no history of heart problems, but her mother, Rosemary Breslin, died in 1981 at age 50. Her sister, also named Rosemary, died of a blood disease in 2004 at 47.

Many celebrities have lent their names to bringing more visibility to arrhythmias, including British singer Elton John and 007 actor Roger Moore, who both suffer from the condition. Moore, 81, was fitted with a pacemaker after blacking out while on stage. Experts say that, although arrhythmias are common, not all are fatal.

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