Occasional episodes of abnormal heart rhythms may not be concerning, but in many cases some type of treatment is necessary to avoid serious complications.
Usually, the heart beats in a steady rhythm controlled by the heart’s electrical system. When something disrupts the consistent rhythm, causing it to beat too fast, too slow, or irregularly, you are said to have an arrhythmia.
Transient idiopathic arrhythmias are heart rhythm disturbances that come and go with no identifiable causes. They may be harmless and require no treatment, though if episodes are frequent and cause symptoms, your doctor may recommend intervention or medical therapy.
Effective management of the condition may be done with medications. In some cases, a procedure called catheter ablation may be appropriate, particularly if the abnormal rhythm is affecting heart function.
The outlook for someone with transient idiopathic arrhythmia depends on several factors, though the best results usually occur when you work closely with your healthcare team and note any changes in your symptoms.
A transient arrhythmia is also called a paroxysmal arrhythmia, meaning changes in your heart rhythm may develop without warning and resolve on their own. These episodes may last less than a minute or for days before disappearing.
Transient or paroxysmal arrhythmias differ from the two main kinds of heart rhythm problems: persistent and permanent arrhythmias. A persistent arrhythmia doesn’t go away on its own within 7 days and usually requires treatment. A permanent arrhythmia lasts for at least a year, even with treatment.
“Idiopathic” refers to a disease or condition with an uncertain origin. An idiopathic arrhythmia generally occurs without any diagnosed structural heart problems. In general, an arrhythmia can develop for any reason, including:
A transient idiopathic arrhythmia isn’t linked to a diagnosed cardiac condition. This can make the rhythm problem challenging to diagnose and treat.
Types of heart arrhythmias
Arrhythmias are usually identified by whether the heartbeat is fast, slow, or irregular. There are several types:
- Bradycardia is an abnormally slow heart rate, usually fewer than 60 beats per minute (bpm) at rest.
- Tachycardia is an abnormally fast heart rate, usually faster than 100 bpm at rest.
- You may also have an arrhythmia with a premature or “extra” beat. This occurs when each heartbeat arrives a little too early. It can feel like your heart is skipping a beat.
Arrhythmias can also be categorized by where in the heart the rhythm disturbances originate:
- Supraventricular arrhythmias begin in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) or in the tissue separating the atria from the lower chambers (ventricles).
- Ventricular arrhythmias, usually the
most dangerous, originate in the ventricles and often require emergency medical attention.
You can read more about the different types, related issues, and treatments for arrhythmia.
An idiopathic arrhythmia has no traditional origin or trigger, such as heart disease or a valve disorder. Instead, an idiopathic arrhythmia may develop due to a collection of excitable cells in the heart that cause it to beat in an abnormal rhythm.
This is essential when treating the arrhythmia with catheter ablation, a procedure that uses radiofrequency waves or extreme cold (cryoablation) to destroy a small collection of cells interfering with your heart’s usual rhythm.
Some transient idiopathic arrhythmias may be so mild or fleeting that you aren’t aware of any symptoms. You may not receive a diagnosis unless your heart rate is being monitored for another reason and your heart happens to go into a transient arrhythmia at that moment.
But when symptoms are present, they can include:
- chest pain or discomfort
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- rapid heart rate or palpitations
- shortness of breath
Atrial fibrillation (AFib) is the
Ventricular arrhythmias are less common but are associated with the most serious complications. They are responsible for many
Treatment options for a transient idiopathic arrhythmia range from medications to surgery and the implantation of devices designed to help the heart stay in rhythm.
Arrhythmia medications include antiarrhythmic drugs to help the heart maintain a normal rhythm, as well as drugs, such as beta-blockers, that help control heart rate. Other medications you might be prescribed include antihypertensives to manage high blood pressure and anticoagulants or antiplatelets to help prevent a dangerous blood clot from forming.
Procedures include such therapies as cardioversion, which uses electrical impulses to reestablish a normal rhythm, and catheter ablation, which uses energy to separate problematic cells from the heart’s electrical system.
Many people with arrhythmias require a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator placed in the chest to help keep the heart beating as it should.
Other surgical procedures include the maze procedure, which is typically used to treat Afib when ablation or other treatments are unsuccessful.
Success rates of idiopathic VT ablation
One of the most common transient idiopathic arrhythmias that usually requires treatment is ventricular tachycardia (VT).
When medications aren’t effective for idiopathic VT, catheter ablation is the recommended option. Research suggests VT ablation has a cure rate of about 90%.
With treatment, a transient idiopathic arrhythmia can be a manageable condition with little impact on quality of life and longevity.
But even with treatment, all rhythm conditions can return.
Because of the risks involved, it’s important to have your heart health monitored regularly.
Because arrhythmias of any kind can lead to complications, such as heart failure, cardiomyopathy, blood clot formation, sudden cardiac arrest, and even death, they need to be taken seriously.
Even if your symptoms are mild and you have infrequent episodes of transient idiopathic arrhythmia, following the advice of your healthcare team gives you the best chance of managing the condition successfully.