Bradycardia Symptoms

If a person has been long accustomed to a slow-acting heart, there

are no symptoms. If the heart has become slowed from disease or from

any acute condition, the patient is likely to feel more or less

faint, perhaps have some dizzines, and often headache, which is

generally relieved by lying down. Sometimes convulsions may occur,

epileptiform in character, due possibly to anemia or irritation of

the brain. If the slow heart does not cause these more serious

symptoms, the patient may feel week and unable to attend to his

ordinary duties. As previously urged an abnormally slow heart after

serious illness should be as carefully cared for as a too rapid

heart under the same conditions. Probably often a myocarditis and

perhaps some fatty degeneration are at the base of such a slowed

heart after serious infections.

A heart which has not always been slow but has gradually become slow

with the progress of hypertension and arteriosclerosis will often

disclose on postmortem examination serious lesions of the coronary


Deficiency in the thyroid secretion will always cause a heart to be

slower than normal. The more marked and serious the hypothyroidism,

the slower the heart is apt to be. When such a condition is

diagnosed, the treatment is thyroid extract; or if the insufficiency

is not great, small doses of an iodid should be given. In either

case it is sometimes astonishing how rapidly a slow, sluggishly

acting heart, improves and how much improvement there is in the

mental condition of the patient.

In acute slowing of the heart, as in syncope, the patient must

immediately lie down with the head low, possibly with the feet and

legs elevated, and all constricting clothing of the abdomen and

chest should be removed. Whiffs of smelling-salts may be given;

whisky, brandy or other quickly acting stimulant, not much diluted,

play also be given. Camphor, a hypodermic dose of strychnin or

atropin if deemed necessary, a hot-water bag over the heart, and

massaging of the arms and legs to aid the return circulation, are

all means which are generally successful in restoring the patient's

circulation to normal. Caffein is another valuable stimulant,

perhaps best administered as a cup of coffee. Digitalis is not

indicated: neither is nitroglycerin, unless the slow heart is due to

cardiac pain or to angina.

Some patients have syncopal attacks with the least injury or with

any mental shock. Such patients as soon as restored are as well as

ever. Other patients who faint or have attacks of syncope should

remain at rest on a couch or bed for some hours.

A tangible cause, being discovered for an unusually slow heart is

sufficiently indicative of the treatment not to require further

comment. While generally toxins from intestinal indigestion make a

heart irritable and more rapid, sometimes they slow a heart, and in

such cases the heart will be improved when catharsis has been caused

and a modification of the diet is ordered.

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