Cardiac resynchronisation therapy sometimes referred to as biventricular pacing, may be recommended if the electrical impulses that control your heart contractions and relaxations aren't travelling through your heart rapidly and evenly. It may be that your left ventricle may contract a fraction of a second after the right ventricle when they should contract simultaneously. This lack of coordination can have an impact on the ability of your heart to pump blood around your body effectively.
Cardiac resynchronisation therapy is a form of therapy that is sometimes required to maximise the pumping function of the heart in people who suffer from underlying ventricular function issues. The ventricles - which are the two lower chambers of the heart - can often fall out out sync with each other which makes the heart less efficient and stops it pumping blood around the body as it should.
Whilst a normal pacemaker only has wires that run in the right side of the heart, cardiac resynchronisation therapy requires the placement of an extra wire in the left ventricle in order to resynchronise both sides to beat together. By realigning the lower chambers of the heart so that they work together in order to improve the overall function of the heart.
In doing so, you can lessen symptoms such as breathlessness and dizziness.
The treatment will involve placing a pacemaker about the size of a 50 cent or 50 pence piece just below the collarbone. There will be three wires that connect to the device which will monitor your heart rate to detect any irregularities. The devices will then emit tiny pulses of electricity to rectify these irregularities - in effect, resynchronising the heart.
Because cardiac resynchronisation therapy improves the efficiency of your heart and thus improves the flow of blood around your body, most patients report fewer symptoms - such as shortness of breath - following the procedure.
Cardiac resynchronisation therapy is considered incredibly safe and is highly recommended by most cardiologists. However, as with all procedures, there are potential risks of infection as well as other common surgical risks. These will be discussed with you by your doctor during the planning of your procedure.
In most cases, your doctor will suggest that you undergo a series of tests before deciding to fit a cardiac resynchronisation therapy device. These tests may include:
- An angiogram to check the blood supply to your heart. If there is a blockage or narrowing of your coronary arteries the pumping function of your heart may be affected. In some cases, these blockages can be treated using angioplasty procedures. This involves inflating a balloon catheter in order to widen the artery. If this is possible you may no longer need a cardiac resynchronisation therapy device.
- A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan - This will provide a detailed view of the structure and muscles of your heart. If you already have a device such as a pacemaker or ICD fitted this may not be a possible test for you as the scanner uses magnetic fields which could interfere with your device.
For more information, talk to our cardiology department.