Types of Arrhythmias in Children

Certain types of arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat, can occur in children—and some can be serious. Treatment for a child with an arrhythmia is aimed at regulating heart rhythm to control symptoms and to prevent serious, life-threatening events.

Depending on the type and severity of the arrhythmia, doctors at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone may manage them with medications, minimally invasive treatments that use catheters to destroy tissue that’s causing the arrhythmia, or implantable devices to regulate heart rhythm.

Tachycardia in Children

Tachycardia is when the heart beats too quickly. The most common type, known as supraventricular tachycardia, causes sudden episodes of rapid heartbeats that can last for a few seconds to several days.

This condition can resolve on its own but often becomes chronic. Another type, called ventricular tachycardia, is much less common but can be serious and may require immediate treatment.

Bradycardia in Children

Bradycardia is the term for a slow heart beat. Bradycardia can occur when the sinus node—an electrical “pacemaker” in the upper part of the heart that causes it to contract—isn’t working properly.

Heart block, in which electrical signals from the sinus node are prevented from reaching the lower chambers, is another cause of bradycardia in children. Heart block can also occur during pregnancy if the mother has an autoimmune disorder that causes antibodies to attack the baby’s atrioventricular node, the electrical connection between the upper and lower chambers of the heart.

Genetic Cardiovascular Conditions

Some genetic cardiovascular conditions can cause arrhythmias in children. For example, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy thickens the heart muscle, making it difficult to pump blood. In another inherited condition, long QT syndrome, the heart muscle is not able to recharge quickly enough between heartbeats, causing them to be fast and chaotic.