Syncope is a frequent cause for emergency consultation and hospital admission; it is also an indicator of reduced survival rate among older adults. The differential diagnosis may be large, but bradyarrhythmias, neurocardiogenic syncope, carotid hypersensitivity syndrome, and orthostatic hypotension are the more frequent causes. Good history-taking and physical examination usually orient the diagnosis and testing strategy. In working with older patients, great care must be taken in assessing comorbidities and concomitant medications as they can exacerbate syncopal symptoms. A multidisciplinary and dedicated approach to syncope increases the diagnostic yield and rapid management of patients.
Key words: syncope, orthostatic hypotension, arrhythmia, neurally mediated syncope.
The prevalence of cardiac arrhythmia increases within a continuously aging population. This is illustrated by the projection of a 2.5-fold increase in the number of cases of atrial fibrillation (AF) in the United States by 2050. Approaches to arrhythmia management have changed considerably in recent years; this is, in part, related to the better understanding of effects of the existing drug therapy in patients with arrhythmia, and the advances of catheter ablation and complex device therapies for selected older patients.
In this review, we have broadly classified arrhythmias into brady- and tachyarrhythmias (AF, paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardias, and ventricular arrhythmias) and followed by highlighting the contemporary therapies for these arrhythmias in older adults.
Key words: aging, arrhythmia, drug, ablation, devices.
Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the most common sustained cardiac rhythm disturbance for which patients seek medical attention. AF has a heterogeneous clinical presentation, occurring in the presence or absence of detectable heart disease or related symptoms. Depending upon the duration and response to pharmacological and electrical cardioversion, AF can be classified as paroxysmal, persistent, or permanent. AF can be isolated or associated with other arrhythmias, often atrial flutter or atrial tachycardia. Minimum clinical evaluation of a patient with AF includes history, physical examination, and ECG documentation by at least single-lead ECG recording during the dysrhythmia. Additional investigation may include Holter monitoring, exercise testing, transesophageal echocardiography, and/or electrophysiological study.
Key words: arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation, Holter monitoring, atrial tachycardia.
Robert S. Sheldon, MD, PhD, FRCP(C) and Satish R. Raj, MD, FRCP(C), Cardiovascular Research Group, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB.
Implantable cardioverter-defibrillators are pacemaker-like devices that sense and treat ventricular tachycardia and ventricular fibrillation, and are generally used in an aging population. They have been proven in large randomized clinical trials to prevent death in patients who have already survived a life-threatening episode of ventricular arrhythmias. Recent studies have expanded their indications to the prevention of arrhythmic death in patients who have risk factors for this disorder. How widely they will be used, and at what cost, is unknown.
Key words: implanted defibrillator, arrhythmia, sudden death, anti-arrhythmic therapy, heart disease.
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