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Conduction Problems of the Heart

By Andrea Helaine, eHow Contributor

The conduction system of the heart refers to the electrical signals that are generated by the heart each time it beats. The heart has tissue that not only produces electrical impulses, but also sends them to the heart muscle and allows the heart to expand and contract, thereby supplying blood to the body. When the conduction system of the heart is compromised, it is important to find the source to avoid additional health problems and death.

Heart Function

The cardiac conduction system determines heart rate and rhythm. It has three major parts: the AV, or atrioventricular node, the SA, or sinoatrial node, and the HisPurkinjie system. Problems with the conduction system of the heart may cause heart attack, endocarditis, congential heart failure, coronary artery disease, stroke, and sudden death.

AV Node

The AV node is the connection between the atria and ventricles. In the conduction system of the heart, signals are sent down the AV node from the atria to the ventricles sections of the heart.

SA Node

The SA node is the part of the electrical system that is known as the natural pacemaker. This node is responsible for initiating heart beats.

His-Purkinjie System

This part of the system is responsible for carrying the electrical signals throughout the ventricles. The system consists of the four following parts: the His bundle, right bundle branch, left bundle branch, and finally, the Purkinjie fibers. The electrical signals begin in the His bundle, and end in the Purkinjie fibers.

Tachycardia

During tachycardia, or when the heart rate is too fast, the heart does not pump blood into the body and puts stress on the heart. Tachycardia in the atrium is normally not a problem, but if such a conduction problem of the ventricles is left untreated it can result in serious medical complications or death.

Arrythmia and Bradycardia

Cardiac arrhythmia and bradycardia is caused because there is an abnormal conduction or abnormal generation of electrical impulses in the heart, which disturb the heart's natural rhythm and ability to contract. When the heart beats irregularly, the condition is medically known as arrhythmia and may be perceptible to the patient as skipped beats or palpitations. When the heart rate is too slow, the condition is known as bradycardia. During bradycardia, the blood doesn't circulate fast enough, which reduces the amount of oxygen and nutrients carried to muscles. This lack of oxygen can affect the body's ability to function properly.

Treatment

Some medications such as calcium channel blockers and beta blockers can help the heart restore its natural rate and rhythm. However, cardiac conduction problems often require a pacemaker that will help regulate the heart beat and ensure that it remains at a natural rhythm.