Heartbeat Irregularity a Common Condition With Potential for Fatalities


Dallas Stars’ center Rich Peverley has garnered a lot of attention over the last 24 hours for having been treated for what has been termed a “cardiac event”.  What is known is that the former Bruin went under the knife last September to correct an irregular heartbeat, but what many may not realize is the potential for fatality that may result from this all-too-common condition.

An irregular heartbeat is essentially when your heartbeat falls out of its usual rhythm; the electrical impulses that govern your heart rate do not work properly, which results in an irregular heartbeat or an arrhythmia.  There are two types of arrhythmia – bradycardia, or when your heartbeat is too slow, and tachycardia, which is when your heart rate is too fast – and both require regulation of some sort.  Tachycardia comes in two types – supraventricular or ventricular – and while supraventricular tachycardia most frequently rears its head as atrial fibrillation or a-fib, ventricular tachycardia is the most common cause of sudden death.

There are many who experience the symptoms of arrhythmia, but after a while, the symptoms may be so familiar to them that they may dismiss them as regular signs of aging.  They are not; in fact, it is recommended that if a sensation of a racing or repetitive heartbeat occurs, or if it seems as though their heartbeat is too slow, people should see their doctor, as heartbeat irregularity is a common condition with the potential for fatalities.

The most common way to diagnose an irregular heartbeat is through an EKG or ECG, otherwise known as an electrocardiogram.  This test takes the electrical activity of the heart and traces it as a line drawing on paper.  In the case of atrial fibrillation, there may be poor blood flow to the body, and the heart may feel as though it is racing as it reaches a heart rate of anywhere from 100 to 300 beats per minute.  In cases where a-fib occurs, it is treated as a serious medical disorder and it requires either medication or other forms of medical intervention to regulate.

If a person is experiencing atrial fibrillation, he or she could experience lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion and even chest pain.  An appointment should be made with a medical professional immediately, as the medical professional can assess the person and determine whether or not they have atrial fibrillation immediately.

Because of the chaotic signals that the heart is receiving during instances of tachycardia – in this case, a-fib – the atria or two upper chambers of the heart quiver and are not able to appropriately pump blood in the way it was designed to.  This then causes those experiencing the condition to potentially pass out from the poor pumping of their heart because of the resulting poor blood flow.  If atrial fibrillation is not controlled, it could lead to stroke or even heart failure, and both conditions have the potential to be fatal.

While heartbeat irregularity is a fairly common condition, it is one that has a potential for fatalities.  While Rich Peverley was lucky – he has been treated for heartbeat irregularity in the past with success, and this recent “cardiac event” has been successfully dealt with as well – it is certain that his medical team will be observing the player carefully in order to ensure he can continue with his successful NHL career.

By Christina St-Jean




Web MD

Boulder Community Hospital