Patients and Families

Inherited Heart Rhythm Conditions Can Cause a Cardiac Arrest

Inherited heart rhythm conditions are heart conditions that run in families and can cause life threatening irregular heart rhythms. These conditions can be passed from parent to child and may not be recognized until a seemingly healthy individual has a serious heart rhythm event that causes loss of consciousness and in some cases death.

Signs and symptoms of an inherited heart rhythm condition

1. Fainting spells or dizziness with exercise or emotion
2. Heart racing
3. Seizures

To diagnose an inherited heart rhythm condition, looking at the entire family can be helpful. The individual who has had symptoms suggesting a heart rhythm irregularity should be assessed by a specialist in inherited heart rhythm conditions. The experts in these conditions are called electrophysiologists who are trained to recognise these rare and hard to diagnose conditions. Genetic counsellors are also part of the clinical team that help to determine the assessments required to diagnose these inherited conditions and ensure that all family members are also offered the diagnostics and care that will prevent serious heart rhythm irregularities in the family. Testing includes a number of clinical tests and may include genetic testing to determine the likelihood of having the heart condition.

Clinical testing for diagnosing an inherited heart rhythm condition

1. ECG (electrocardiogram)
2. Exercise stress test
3. Holter Monitor
4. Echocardiogram
5. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

Genetic screening can help find the genetic reason for some heart rhythm conditions. Genetic testing is complex and although helpful in many cases it does not always provide certainty in all cases.

Is it a Cardiac Arrest or a Heart Attack?

A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart stops beating abruptly without warning. A cardiac arrest is a problem with the electrical system of the heart.

A heart attack occurs when blood flow to the heart is blocked. Sometimes called a Myocardial Infarction (MI) is a circulation problem, when an underlying heart condition blocks the flow of blood to the heart.