At Inventional Cardiac Consultants patient education is very important to us. It allows our health professionals and others impart information to our patients and their caregivers that will alter their health behaviors or improve their health status.
Sick Sinus Syndrome
Sick sinus syndrome is a relatively uncommon heart rhythm disorder. SSS is not a specific disease, but rather a group of signs or symptoms that indicate the sinus node, the heart’s natural pacemaker, is not functioning properly. A person with SSS may have a heart rhythm that is too slow (bradycardia), too fast (tachycardia), or one that alternates between the fast and slow (bradycardia-tachycardia).
What is Sick Sinus Syndrome?
The sinus node is a specialized group of cells in the upper chamber of the heart, the atria, that creates electrical signals that regulate the pace and rhythm of the heartbeat. Normally, the sinus node produces a regular, steady pattern of signals. With SSS, the pattern is irregular. Sick sinus syndrome may be due to defects in the heart itself, or it can be related to factors outside the heart.
Most people with sick sinus syndrome have few or no symptoms. In others, symptoms may come and go. These symptoms can include:
- Slower than normal pulse (bradycardia)
- Fainting (syncope)
- Feeling tired all of the time (fatigue)
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
- Chest pain (angina)
- Disturbed sleep
- Heart palpitations (feeling like your heart is racing, pounding, or fluttering)
Treatment for mild or early cases of Sick Sinus Syndrome involves relieving symptoms. Your doctors may adjust or change your medication if that is the problem. They may also prescribe additional medications that may have a direct effect on heart rhythm. Eventually, however, most people with SSS will need an artificial pacemaker implant when the sinus node is no longer able to adequately perform.
A pacemaker is a very small machine that is surgically implanted in the chest or abdomen to regulate your heartbeat. It does this through sending electrical pulses to the heart.
Almost one-half of pacemaker implantations are performed because of problems related to sick sinus syndrome. Pacemakers are generally tolerated well, and most people experience few complications.