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Heart block is a type of arrhythmia that affects the rate (number of beats per minute) or rhythm (the pattern of pulses produced) of your heartbeat.
During heart block, electricity isn’t able travel all the way through the chambers of your heart. Some people are born with this condition, known as congenital heart block, but most develop it over the course of their lifetime.
Expert Care and Cutting-Edge Heart Block Treatment
Heart specialists at Houston Methodist use the latest technology to diagnose heart block and work as a team to design the most effective heart block treatment plan for your unique needs and lifestyle.
If heart block is suspected, our experts perform a full cardiac evaluation, testing for heart blockage using an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG). If heart block is detected and requires treatment, we have expert electrophysiologists, specialists who treat conditions that affect the heart's electrical system.
If you’re experiencing severe heart block symptoms, our specialists are also experts at the surgical techniques needed to implant a pacemaker, which can help restore and control your heart’s proper rhythm.
Types of Heart Block
There are three types of heart block, differing by symptoms and degree of severity.
First-degree heart block
First-degree heart block may not cause any severe symptoms. It can be common in elite athletes or caused by certain medications, such as beta-blockers.
Second-degree heart block
Second-degree heart block may result in the heart skipping one or more beats — causing dizziness or fainting. This type of heart block is further broken down into two subtypes:
- Second-degree type 1 heart block – the less serious form of second-degree heart block
- Second-degree type 2 heart block – a more serious form of second-degree heart block, resulting in a heartbeat that’s significantly slower than normal
Third-degree heart block
Third-degree heart block may lead to dizziness, fainting or fatigue, but could also result in cardiac arrest or death.
About Heart Block
What Are the Symptoms of Heart Block?
General symptoms that suggest you may have heart block include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
What Are the Tests Used to Diagnose Heart Block?
How is Heart Block Treated?
Heart block treatment varies depending on the severity (degree) of your condition and whether or not you’re experiencing symptoms.
First-degree heart block may not cause any symptoms, and it may also not require treatment. However, people who have first-degree heart block may be at higher risk for atrial fibrillation (AFib), an irregular heartbeat that may lead to a stroke. Because of this, it’s important to be evaluated by an electrophysiologist.
If you have second-degree heart block, you may or may not experience symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, our experts may simply observe you, or modify your medications if any are suspected to be the cause.
Second-degree heart block that causes symptoms, especially second-degree type 2 heart block, may need to be treated using a pacemaker, a small device implanted under the skin in your chest that uses electrical pulses to keep your heart beating normally.
If third-degree heart block is detected, it is likely that a pacemaker will be needed.