What role does the rhythm of our heart play?

A group of cells in the top chamber of your heart make up your sinus node - your internal pacemaker. This sets the rhythm and pace of your heart. First it fires an electrical signal to your atria and atrioventricular node. From there, the electrical signal passes through pathways of fibres in the lower chambers of your heart. These signals tell your heart chambers when to contract and expand.


If there’s something wrong with the electrical sequence, your heart might beat with an irregular pattern, or go too fast or too slow. The most common abnormal heart rhythm is atrial fibrillation. This happens when the top chambers of your heart are electrically chaotic, which stops them from working.


You might feel heart palpitations, you might feel dizzy and tired, or you might not have any symptoms at all. Whatever the case, our heart rhythm specialists can explain whether it’s something you can manage with medicines, or whether you’d benefit from treatment like an ablation, a procedure to correct irregular heart rhythms.

Our consultants pioneered the treatment of irregular heartbeats

As well as specialising in cardiology, our consultants subspecialise in electrophysiology, the diagnosis and treatment of abnormal heart rhythms. If you need a procedure, it’s likely our consultants will have performed it thousands of times. They may even be the person who pioneered it originally.

For instance, among our consultant cardiac electrophysiologists is the one of the first people to perform cryoablation treatment of atrial fibrillation, using a balloon catheter to locate and freeze the heart tissue that causes an irregular heartbeat. Another consultant carried out the world’s first ablation without X-rays.

Our consultants often team up to perform the most complicated procedures together. The extra expertise in the room can make all the difference for patients with complex needs.

Diagnosing and treating heart rhythm problems

Diagnosing irregular rhythms

Your consultant might recommend an electrocardiogram (ECG) to pick up the electrical signals in your heart, or an echocardiogram, which uses soundwaves to create an image of your heart.

Medical management of irregular rhythms

Some abnormal heart rhythms don’t need treatment at all, and others can be managed with medicines. Your consultant might prescribe blood thinners to prevent clots, or other drugs to slow the pace of your heart or prevent rhythm abnormalities.

Performing catheter ablations

Consultants thread catheters into the heart to detect the abnormal electrical circuits or parts of the muscle that are causing arrhythmia. Then they destroy the abnormal circuits or muscle by using heating (a radiofrequency ablation) or freezing (a cryoablation).

Implanting a pacemaker or ICD

A pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) sits under the skin under your collarbone and connects to your heart with wires. Devices like these monitor your heart rhythm, regulating it with electrical pulses when it beats abnormally.

The world’s first radiation-free ablation

Almost every ablation involves exposure to a small amount of radiation from the scans that help consultants guide catheters towards the heart. But, using non-fluoroscopic computerised 3D mapping instead of X-rays, our consultant carried out the world’s first radiation-free ablation.

Pacemakers without wires

Instead of a bulky pacemaker that sits under the skin under the collarbone, we implant a tiny pacemaker in a capsule. The capsule attaches to the heart muscle, so the pacemaker can sit directly within the heart. Because of this, there’s no need for wires.

Mapping previously undetectable arrhythmias

The CardioInsight Mapping Vest records the way the heart beats over a period of time.

It can identify even the most infrequent electrical signal — so our consultants can treat an arrhythmia that would have been previously impossible to find.

Our cardiac hospitals

Our hospitals are internationally recognised. Our cardiac department brings together these different sites, our consultants, nurses, teams and technology. It’s all these elements combined that allow us to deliver outstanding care.

You'll feel like you're at home

Our teams’ decades of experience mean they know how to anticipate what you need before you need it. They’ll take care of the things that matter to you — whether it’s planning your treatment so it fits around your family, or just making sure your tea’s exactly the right strength.

Request a cardiac appointment

If heart symptoms are affecting your quality of life, we’re here to help. Our heart team is available to book an appointment with a cardiac specialist.

Call us today

020 7616 4988
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