Arrhythmia in Children | Pediatrics | Loyola Medicine

Arrhythmia in Children

Overview and Facts about Arrhythmia in Children

Arrhythmia is an aortic disease characterized by any change in the regular, even rhythm of the heartbeat. There are several different types of arrhythmias, which can be grouped into three general categories: supraventricular (atrial) arrhythmias, ventricular arrhythmias, and bradyarrhythmias.​

Signs and Symptoms of Arrhythmia in Children

A hallmark sign of arrhythmia in children is a feeling of “fluttering” or “skipping beats.” If your child is not mentioning either of these symptoms, the common signs and symptoms of arrhythmia in children you should look out for can include:

  • Weakness and fatigue
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Paleness
  • Chest pain
  • A slow or fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • In infants, irritability or difficulty feeding​

Causes and Risk Factors of Arrhythmia in Children

An arrhythmia can be caused by a physical condition, such as a heart defect, or outside factors like infection, fever, or certain medications. The majority of arrhythmias in children are harmless, but some can be serious and even life-threatening.

With respect to risks, this aortic disease can cause the heart to pump less effectively, because the heart muscle becomes uncoordinated. Certain arrhythmias can increase the risk for other medical problems like stroke or blood clots, though this is rare in children.

Tests and Diagnosis of Arrhythmia in Children

To diagnose arrhythmia in children, the doctor will review the patient's medical history and symptoms and may order a blood test to rule out medications or infection as the cause for the arrhythmia. An electrocardiogram (ECG) may also be used. ECG records the heartbeat and can measure irregularity.

If the child is not experiencing symptoms at the time of ECG, the doctor may order a portable monitor that can continuously record a child’s heartbeat over the course of a few days or months. If needed, an implantable monitor can be worn for a year or longer.

Other potential tests include:

  • Electrophysiology tests. In this, a small tube is inserted into a blood vessel and advanced to the heart. With this test, the doctor can see the origin of the arrhythmia within the heart tissue.
  • Tilt table test. This test is often used in children who faint frequently. It measures the heart rate and blood pressure changes that occur when the child changes position – such as when they go from lying down to sitting up.

Treatment and Care for Arrhythmia in Children

Most arrhythmias in children are isolated instances and do not require treatment. When children are treated for arrhythmia it is typically a treatment for the underlying issue, such as fever.

In more extreme cases treatment will depend on the age of the child, the cause of the arrhythmia, and the type of arrhythmia. Options include: