​Arrhythmia


​Arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heartbeat, which is usually regular and even. Arrhythmias might be caused by a heart defect, fever, infection, and certain medications. The rhythm can be too fast (tachycardia) or too slow (bradycardia) compromising the heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently to the rest of the body. Irregular blood supply can damage other organs such as the kidneys, liver and brain.
Most often, this di​​​sorder is not a cause of concern but at times it can get life-threatening.

Symptoms in adults include:

  • Palpitation

  • Weakness

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness, fainting, light-headedness

  • Chest pains

  • Sweating

  • Pale skin

  • Slow or fast heartbeat

Symptoms in infants include:

  • Difficulty in feeding

  • Irritability​

​Due to the unpredictability of arrhythmia, it is very important to get yourself or your child checked by a doctor. Visit the Children’s Hospital Service Line or the ​Heart, Lung and Vascular Service​ Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital if you notice the above mentioned symptoms in your child.​​​

​Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.​

To diagnose arrhythmia the doctor may begin with a physical examination followed by listening to your or your child’s heartbeat using a stethoscope. The doctor will ask about your child’s medical history and their symptoms in detail. Following this, your child may have to undergo the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) in which the electrical activity of the heart is recorded to detect any abnormality in the heart beat.

  • Holter and event monitors to record your child’s ECG for a few days. The portable device is painless and can be carried home. This is done when arrhythmia is not revealed during an ECG

  • Blood test to rule out medications and infections as cause of arrhythmia

  • Electrophysiology studies, which uses a catheter to diagnose or treat arrhythmia 

Arrhythmia can often be treated successfully or may not even require any treatment. Moreover, except for a few cases, it is usually not a cause of concern.

The treatment provided depends on the type of arrhythmia, age of your child, duration and frequency of irregular heartbeats and the presence of symptoms. Your personal choices will also be taken into consideration prior to the treatment. The treatment options include:

  • Medications to rectify the heart rate and make it steady

  • Cardio version in which small electrical shock is delivered to the heart through the chest to stop certain fast arrhythmia

  • Ablation in which a small tube (catheter) is inserted through a blood vessel in the leg, arm or groin, and threaded up to the heart to destroy a tiny piece of heart tissue using radiofrequency energy

  • Pacemaker, a small device, which is implanted under the skin and sends signals to the heart to start or regulate a slow heartbeat 

  • Implantable cardioverter defibrillator, a small device similar to the pacemaker, which is implanted under the skin below the collarbone. It detects the rate of the heartbeat and sends an electrical signal, when the heart rate increases, to slow it down

  • Surgery, which is done when all other treatments fail. The chest is opened to expose the heart and the heart tissues causing arrhythmia are destroyed. It is a major procedure which is carried out under general anaesthesia

​The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

​Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​​