Sick sinus syndrome or sinus node dysfunction is a defined range of problems with an individual's heart rhythm where the sinus node does not function normally. The rhythm of the heart is controlled by an area of specialized cells in the right atrium of the heart called the sinus node. In healthy individuals, a steady tempo of regular electrical impulses is produced by the sinus node. However, these electrical signals are irregularly paced in individuals affected by sick sinus syndrome. These abnormal heart rhythms may be too slow, too fast, interrupted by long pauses, or any combination of these rhythm issues. Common symptoms indicative of sick sinus syndrome include fatigue, breathlessness, chest pain, palpitations, bradycardia, dizziness, fainting, and confusion. If sick sinus syndrome cannot be managed through the use of medication, a surgical procedure is usually needed.
Sick sinus syndrome has several potential causes and often produces numerous complications. Learn about these now.
Bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome is a sick sinus syndrome complication characterized by the alternation of bradycardia or an abnormally slow heartbeat and tachycardia or an abnormally fast heartbeat. Both bradycardia and tachycardia occur as a result of a problem with the conduction or initiation of signals meant to trigger cardiac action. The reason an issue arises with the signals is due to a dysfunction of the ion channels, which play a crucial role in regulating heart rhythm. The specific heart rhythm pattern exhibited in individuals affected by bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome can also be a result of electrophysiological and structural remodeling of the heart muscle. This remodeling causes a modification of the atrial sinus node or the group of cells responsible for producing a steady pace of impulses that signal the heart muscle to contract and relax. It is not clear whether the tachycardia causes bradycardia or vice versa in bradycardia-tachycardia syndrome patients. Depending on the exact cause of this complication, treatment may include the use of a pacemaker, a surgical procedure, or medication.
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