At the University of Chicago Medicine, we take a personalized approach to treatment. Our goal is to provide each patient with individualized care, better outcomes and an overall improved quality of life. We thoroughly evaluate your condition and partner with you to decide what treatment strategy works best with your diagnosis and lifestyle.

Medical Management of Arrhythmias

Antiarrhythmic drug therapy uses medication to slow down an irregularly fast heartbeat and restore it to a normal rhythm.

Anticoagulation management is the use of blood thinners to prevent clots and reduce the risk of stroke for patients with heart rhythm disorders.

Being an advocate for your health is a huge first step in living a healthier life. For those who have an arrhythmia, there are lifestyle changes that can help you manage your condition, such as:

  • Diet: Eat a healthy diet that's low in salt and solid fats and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
  • Exercise: Exercise daily and increase your physical activity.
  • Quit smoking: If you smoke and can't quit on your own, talk to your doctor about strategies or programs to help you break a smoking habit.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight increases your risk of developing heart disease.
  • Controlling blood pressure and cholesterol: Make lifestyle changes and take medications as prescribed to correct high blood pressure (hypertension) or high cholesterol.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation: If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.
  • Maintain follow-up care: Take your medications as prescribed and have regular follow-up appointments with your doctor. Tell your doctor if your symptoms worsen.

Nonsurgical Arrhythmia Procedures

For conditions that cannot be controlled through medical management alone, some patients may be candidates for nonsurgical treatment of their arrhythmia. Our heart rhythm experts offer a wide range of minimally invasive, interventional procedures to treat arrhythmias.

Ablation is a minimally invasive procedure that involves inserting a specially designed catheter through the leg into the heart. The catheter is used to locate the arrhythmia source, which is then eliminated using extreme cold, laser technology or radiofrequency. Our highly skilled expert team offers comprehensive ablation management.

Read more about our expert ablation services.

Cardioversion normalizes irregular heartbeats by delivering small pulses of electrical current to the heart through electrodes (patches or paddles) placed on the chest. A small amount of electricity is used to reestablish a regular heart rhythm.

Cardiac resynchronization therapy (CTR) is used to correct an arrhythmia where the right and left ventricles are not beating together. During CRT, a biventricular pacemaker is implanted under the collarbone, delivering small electrical impulses to the heart and rectifying the irregular beating. This is typically used for patients whose heart failure is causing an abnormal heartbeat.

Learn more about biventricular pacemakers.

Our team of electrophysiologists works closely with our heart failure program to deliver advanced ventricular care for patients suffering from congestive heart failure.

Implantable devices are mechanical devices that are placed under a patient's skin to monitor and correct irregular heartbeats. The Center for Arrhythmia Care offers a full range of implantable devices to manage heart rhythm disorders and will work with our patients to determine which option would be best for their individual needs.

Learn more about our implantable device services.

Lead management becomes necessary when leads — wires that deliver energy for implantable devices — malfunction, become infected or are recalled from the market. Depending on the circumstances, the lead may need to be removed, also called lead extraction. Leads can be removed either though a small incision in the upper chest or by going through the groin. During an extraction, a sheath, or tube, is maneuvered over the lead. Then laser technology breaks up the scar tissue around the lead, loosening it for easy removal. 

Our high volume lead extraction program ensures that we offer the experience and the skill you can trust if you need a lead extraction.

Left atrial appendage (LAA) occlusion or exclusion is used for patients with atrial fibrillation (AF) to reduce their risk of stroke. The left atrial appendage is a pouch that is located off the left atrium that can fill with blood and be a source of blood clots for those with AF.

There are two primary closure options for the LAA — a suture is tied around the bottom of the appendage or a small "plug-like" device is inserted. Both methods work to cut off blood flow to the appendage and reduce the risk of clotting and stroke.

Surgical Treatment for Arrhythmias

Some complex arrhythmias may require surgery to effectively manage your arrhythmia and eliminate symptoms. Our physicians will thoroughly discuss these options with you and together you will decide on a solution that best meets your needs.

Surgical ablation is an option for patients who have not responded well to conventional treatments. Ablation therapy is performed during traditional open-heart surgery or through a minimally invasive robotic procedure. We partner with our expert cardiac surgeons to offer a viable treatment solution to patients with complex arrhythmias.

Learn more about surgical ablation.

Hybrid procedure for atrial fibrillation is reserved for patients whose arrhythmia has persisted after standard ablation techniques. These long-standing, complex arrhythmias frequently require ablation on both sides of the heart wall for effective treatment. To offer these patients relief, we perform hybrid atrial fibrillation surgery, which combines surgical ablation with catheter ablation for a highly targeted solution.