The cardiac conduction system is an essential part of the human anatomy. It is responsible for the proper functioning of the heart and its ability to beat in a rhythmic manner. A heart block, also known as an atrioventricular (or AV) block, is an electrical disturbance that prevents the transmission of electrical impulses from one part of the heart to another. In simple terms, it’s a communication breakdown between the regulators of the two chambers of the heart – the atria and ventricles.
The most common type of heart block is 3rd degree AV block, also known as complete heart block or “divorce of the cardiac parents“. This condition occurs when there is a complete failure in communication between the atria and ventricles, resulting in no electrical signals passing from one chamber to another. As a result, each chamber contracts independently and at its own rate losing synchronization. This can lead to slow heartbeats and even pauses in your heartbeat if left untreated.
It’s important to note that 3rd degree AV block does not cause any symptoms on its own, but it can cause serious health problems if left untreated for too long. These include dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, palpitations, chest pain or discomfort, fatigue or shortness of breath. In severe cases, it can even lead to cardiac arrest or sudden death due to inadequate blood flow to vital organs such as the brain and lungs.
A 3rd degree AV block can be a frightening experience but with prompt medical attention and proper management techniques, such as those taught in our American Heart Association Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) courses, it can be successfully treated and managed over time with good results. Treatment options depend on how severe the condition is but they usually involve medications to slow down your heartbeat or an implantable pacemaker device that helps regulate your heartbeat.