Sick Sinus Syndrome refers to the dysfunction of the sinus node (heart’s natural pacemaker). The sinus node is an area of specialized cells in the upper right chamber of the heart that controls the rhythm of the heart and produces regular electrical impulses.
People with sick sinus syndrome may have too fast, too slow, or pauses in their heart rhythm. Older people may have high risk in developing this condition. Some diseases and conditions may cause sinus dysfunction, including those that scarring or damaging the heart’s electrical system.
Other causes may include:
- Scar tissue from a past heart surgery
- Certain medications, such as calcium channel blockers or beta blockers used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease, and other conditions
- Breakdown of heart muscle due to age
Sick sinus syndrome may have types depending upon the cause.
- Sinoatrial Block- The electric signals are slowly passing through the sinus node which result to too slow heart rate.
- Sinus Arrest- There are pauses in the activity of the sinus node.
- Bradycardia-tachycardia Syndrome- There is an alternate rythms (fast to slow) and long pauses in the sinus node activity.
Symptoms of sick sinus symptoms may include:
- Slower than normal pulse (bradycardia)
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Fainting or near fainting
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains
- A sensation of rapid, fluttering heartbeats (palpitations)
Diagnosing sick sinus syndrome can be challenging since its symptoms resembles some other disease or condition. The doctor will rely on the tests to confirm it.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)- It records the electrical activity of the heart.
- Echocardiogram- Is ultrasonic imaging test of the heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)- A special ultrasound device is put down the patient’s throat and into the esophagus to get a clear image of the heart size, the contracting strength of the heart, and any damage to the heart muscle.
- Holter Monitoring- In this test, electrocardiogram monitor is attached to the chest and worn for at least one 24-hour period. The patient keeps a diary of his or her activities and symptoms while wearing the monitor.
- Electrophysiologic Testing- It checks the function of the sinus node, as well as other electrical properties of the heart.
Most people with sick sinus syndrome are implanted with an artificial pacemaker to regulate a correct rythm since the common cause of this condition is the breakdown of heart muscle due to age. There are cases where the syndrome has been set off by medications. Calcium channel blockers or beta blockers used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease or other conditions are examples of prescribed medications.