Pediatric Electrophysiology and Arrhythmia Program FAQ

Why does my child have an arrhythmia?

Childhood arrhythmias can be inherited, or they can occur randomly. They are also seen in children with congenital heart disease. Disease, infections, and chemical imbalances, like electrolyte inconsistency, can also cause arrhythmia.

Is treatment for arrhythmia always needed?

No, not always. Some arrhythmias are harmless and do not require treatment. Some mild or intermittent arrhythmias also don’t require treatment unless they are causing symptoms. If treatment is recommended, it is important to follow it as prescribed by your child’s doctor, since arrhythmias can affect the heart function. In extreme cases, arrhythmias can even cause cardiac arrest. If you have any questions about managing your child’s medicines or devices, simply call us.

Can my child expect to live a normal life with treatment?

With most arrhythmias, yes. More serious ones that require an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) or pacemaker may come with some physical limitations, but even then your child can most likely live a normal life.

What can I expect during our first appointment?

At your first visit, a cardiologist will perform a physical exam and may also perform diagnostic procedures to study your child’s heartbeat, including an ECG. When it’s needed, we send you home with a noninvasive monitoring device for your child to wear for a few days or weeks.

Can I remove the heart monitoring device?

No. To receive accurate readings, leave it on at all times, even during exercise and sleep. Most devices can be worn in the shower, except for the Holter monitor and the key portion of the Cardiokey. Swimming is not advised with most heart monitors. Monitors are generally worn for two to 14 days.

What can I expect if my child needs an EP study/ablation?

An EP study/ablation is a specialized catheterization to study the electrical system of the heart and identify an abnormal heart rhythm. Your child will have general anesthesia and will not remember any of the procedure. Once your child is asleep, your electrophysiologist will place long wires through blood vessels in the groin and neck into the heart using a 3-D mapping system. The doctor will then use those wires to identify where your child’s abnormal rhythm is coming from. Once that rhythm abnormality is identified, your electrophysiologist will place a specialized wire into the heart that can burn or freeze away the abnormal tissue causing the problem. The wires will then be removed, and your child will be left with a pinprick in the legs and in the neck and will go home that same day. The entire procedure usually takes about three to four hours.

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Living with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD)

Straight talk by young patients at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford discuss what it's like to live with an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD).

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How do we cope with an ICD?

Having an ICD implanted can make you or your child feel depressed or anxious, or even have symptoms of medical posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). We encourage you to visit our Cardiac Psychology program to learn coping skills, ways to lower stress and anxiety, and ways to deal with everyday challenges like letting your child venture out in the world, attend school, and take part in activities. We are here for all members of your family.

How often does my child with an ICD or pacemaker need to have replacement performed?

It depends on how much your child uses the device; on average, pacemaker and ICD generators last seven years.

What if we have a concern after hours?

Someone is always available to answer your call and connect you with an attending doctor at all hours of every day of the week. Don’t hesitate to call us at (650) 721-2121, or if it is an emergency, call 911.