The human heart has to basic functions - the first mechanical and the second electrical. The mechanical function of the heart is to pump blood to all the organs of the body. The electrical conduction system ensures that the heart keeps beating. The hearts natural pacemaker also known as the Sino atrial (SA) Node is located at the top of right atrium of the heart and is responsible for initiating an electrical signal which travels through the atria (the upper chambers of the heart) and reaches a check point known as atrio ventricular (AV) node which is situated at the junction between the Atria and the ventricles (lower chambers of the heart). After crossing the AV node the electrical signals passes down wire like structures called the bundle branches and eventually reaches the muscles of the ventricles causing them to contract and pump blood to all the parts of the body including the heart itself. Any interruption or delay in the transmission of electrical impulse along this pathway from the top to bottom of the heart leads to what is known as HEART BLOCK.
TYPES OF HEART BLOCK
Based on the degree of delay/interruption in the transmission of electrical signal from the top to bottom of the heart there are three types of heart blocks namely
1. First degree Heart Block
2. Second Degree Heart Block
3. Third Degree Heart Block
WHEN SHOULD YOU CONSULT A CARDIOLOGIST?
Although a few of the patients with heart block may not have any symptoms, others usually present with the following
•Fainting (syncope – transient loss of consciousness)
•Sudden Black out
•Decline in exercise capacity and easy fatigue ability
These symptoms especially in the elderly population must not be taken lightly and you must consult a cardiologist in case you or your family members/friends/neighbours’ have any of the above mentioned symptoms.
HOW WILL MY DOCTOR DIAGNOSE HEART BLOCK
The simplest of the investigation, an ECG can diagnose your heart block. However other investigation like Holter Monitoring (where in your hearts electrical activity is continuously recorded in a small Holter machine for 24 hours), Pocket ECG, Event Loop recorders may be needed to document episodes of heart block that occur intermittently. Some Blood investigations may be ordered to find out the cause.
IS THERE ANY TREATMENT FOR SYMPTOMATIC HEART BLOCK?
You will be surprised to know that the advances in medical science has made treatment of symptomatic heart block so easy with the availability of “small wonders” – a k/a PACEMAKERS which are hardly 25 – 30 grams in weight and slightly larger than our 10 rupees (Indian) coin. Can you beat that!! This device is implanted underneath the skin below you collar bone under local anesthesia. We at Max Smart Super Specialty Hospital Saket routinely implant pacemakers.
CAN YOU GET BACK TO NORMAL LIFE AFTER IMPLANTATION OF PACEMAKER?
Absolutely, that is the sole purpose of pacemaker implantation – to get you rid of the symptoms occurring due to heart block.