Synonyms: Irregular heartbeat

Medical Specialties: Cardiology, Emergency medicine, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Any abnormal heart rate or rhythm that affects specific parts of the heart is considered an arrhythmia. Classified according to origin, a ventricular arrhythmia occurs at the lower ventricle chambers of the heart, while supraventricular arrhythmias originate above the ventricles, or the upper (atrial) chambers of the heart.

In Our Own Words

Any abnormal heart rhythm, called an arrhythmia, affects blood circulating to the heart, lungs and body. Arrhythmias are very common, affecting millions of people worldwide. They are the main cause of sudden cardiac death in the United States, accounting for more than 400,000 deaths each year.

Arrhythmias may be caused by coronary artery disease, hypothermia and severe liver disease, among other chronic conditions. Arrhythmias may also be classified by their effect on your heart rate. Many disordered heartbeats are corrected with pacemakers and medication. Major risk factors are age, sedentary activity and disease states, such as heart failure.   

Relevant Conditions
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
Common Types
  • Bradycardia
  • Tachycardia
Side Effects
  • Heart racing or palpitations
  • Sleeplessness
Share this article
  • Harvard Medical School. Patient Education Center “Irregular Heartbeats.” Accessed August 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. “Types of Heart Failure." Updated August 21, 2013. Accessed August 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. Patient Conditions, “Arrhythmias.” Accessed August 2013.
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