Arrhythmias in Children

What is an arrhythmia?

An arrhythmia is an abnormal rhythm of the heart, which can cause the heart to pump less effectively. It most often occurs in adults but can also occur in children.

Some arrhythmias are not dangerous, while others can be life threatening.

Arrhythmias are classified by the area of the heart where they start: the upper chambers (atria) or lower chambers (ventricles). They can be related to the heart beating too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or in an irregular pattern (fibrillation).

There are many types of arrhythmias, including:

  • atrial flutter
  • atrial fibrillation
  • sinus arrhythmia
  • sinus tachycardia
  • sick sinus syndrome
  • premature supraventricular contractions or premature atrial contractions (PAC)
  • supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) or paroxysmal atrial tachycardia (PAT)
  • premature ventricular contractions
  • ventricular tachycardia
  • ventricular fibrillation

What are the symptoms of an arrhythmia?

Some arrhythmias cause no symptoms. When they do, symptoms can include:

What are the causes of an arrhythmia?

Arrhythmias occur when there is a problem with the electrical signals that control the heartbeat. Sometimes the nerve cells that create the electrical signals don't work the way they should or don’t move normally through the heart. In some cases, other areas of the heart begin to produce electrical signals that disrupt the normal heartbeat.

How we care for arrhythmias

The Electrophysiology Service at Boston Children’s Hospital specializes in diagnosing and treating heart arrhythmias in children and young adults. Our program is one of the largest and most experienced in the country, and we treat more patients with congenital heart problems than any other hospital in the world. We perform hundreds of electrophysiology procedures annually.