Link between TBI and cardiac trouble? : Hi there, I... - Headway


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Link between TBI and cardiac trouble?


Hi there,

I have posted on here once before and was amazed by the support and wisdom of those who responded. I was hit by a car when I was cycling last year and got a moderate brain injury. I've been working hard to adapt to my new life and all the new challenges. I've recently been diagnosed with AVNRT which is a type of supraventricular tachycardia. I get these episodes of a fast heart rate, sweating and shortness of breath and have been put on long term beta blockers to slow my heart down. I'm just wondering if anyone has had cardiac issues post brain injury? I really don't know if there's a link between the two. It'll be nearly impossible to prove I suppose but I never had any cardiac problems before and this has been happening for about 6 months now. Would love to hear your stories or thoughts. It's just one things after another at the minute. A year after the most difficult experience of my life and I get whacked with something else. Luckily SVT isn't usually dangerous, just something to keep an eye on

Thank you for reading!


15 Replies

Yes, no doubt, there is a connection between a tbi and svt's. I have experienced them at random times since my sah and they are truly scary. However, that happened many years ago and they seem to have petered out. Were you told they were related? Found an interesting article relating to it in the American Science online;

Thanks so much for sharing that link. So, I actually work on a cardiology ward as a nurse and am being investigated for these episodes and had a racing heart rate so I said to one of the consultants 'can you just feel my pulse' and he said 'let's get you on an ecg machine' and i said 'naaaaah I thought I'd just go back to work' and he laughed and the ecg managed to shed some light on what was happening. He asked a lot of questions about my accident, SAHs and Subdural Haematomas but he never explicitly said he thought they were connected. I dont have any family history of heart problems. My mum has chrons disease but other than that everyone's pretty healthy. When I see him at work I'll ask whether he thinks that's the cause of all started about 6 months ago when I got out of bed and passed out which in my experience, the situation sounds like postural hypotension but I'm only 30 so it's quite rare at my age. I thought it could be postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) which is linked to things like child birth but also trauma. But now I get these episodes even at rest. I'm glad to hear your episodes have petered out, it's not a pleasant experience. My heart hate goes up to the 160s and that is the range you'd experience after running hard for a while not while you're sitting in the garden doing nothing. They advised lifestyle changes, limit my alcohol which isn't a problem because I don't drink much anyway, i find I get fatigued for days after drinking, but they also want me to limit coffee so I've bought decaf and it's just not the same. It's a small sacrafice but I feel like, I didn't ask to get hit by that car and if that's the reason I have SVT then it's another unfair hand I've been dealt. I know I sound like a spoiled child, sorry! Thanks for taking the time to respond!

Hello again, it's a strange coincidence that you work in cardiology. I once met a 'cardiology theatre' recovery nursing sister (in Southampton) who at the ripe ol' age of 36, had to undergo her own cardioconversion by the same team she worked alongside! I thought later, had she been too empathic and sensitive as a nurse, it caused her own cardiac problems. Only a theory!

O'h yes, I remember those episodes feeling doomed. With one hand on the phone ready to call 999, the other opening up the front door in case I collapsed. You panic! I think I must have focused on my breathing, counting in the breaths, etc, to calm myself down.

If you get stuck on anything further related to your sah, (endocrine, cardiac etc) then phone the National Hospital for Neurology/Neurosurgery at Queen's Square. They have a team of nurses who are highly skilled when it comes to brain related issues. I attended a SAH Conference there a few years back, the nurses I spoke to during the breaks, were extremely helpful with their knowledge on endocrine probs following brain injury. They are rife they said!

Anyhow, I admire what you're doing, but remember to treat yourself kindly and rest as much as you can when not at work; and keep us updated!

Thank you for taking the time to respond and sending that advice about the national hospital for neurology! It's a poignant point about resting when I'm not working. I'm my worst enemy sometimes.

Possibly a little investigation whether any other family members have heart defects. Everyone is different from post TBI, but the long term health conditions do seem to tally up with TBI. Nice to hear you have adapted and brings hope to ones like me at the very early stage (husband).

I wish you all the strength in the world to get you through this trying time with your husband. Be kind to yourself, that's the best advice I ever got. You didn't ask for this but here you are and you should be proud that you're reaching out to others to make the journey a bit easier

I have Hypopituitarism caused by damaged the pituitary gland in my brain.

It took many years to get correct diagnosis though...

I have severe Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency, Hypothyroidism and Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency....

I had problems for years with rapid, irregular heartbeat and palpitations, sweating, shortness of breath, extreme fatigue but because I got misdiagnosed with CFS(chronic fatigue syndrome) because all my symptoms were easily explained that way...I went untreated for years.

Anyway fast forward to a few years ago and I was finally told what the real problem was and the Endocrinologist who did all the tests said that it is very well known that the pituitary gland can be damaged even with whiplash or even moderate brain injury.

So basically when the HPA axis gets knocked out of whack by trauma it can wreak havoc with hormone imbalances and take years to show effects but one of the first problems for me was the strange heart issues that I put down to work related stress at the time.

Interesting my husbands hormone levels very low, been told redo bloods in 6mths then treatment could be looked at if no improvement,

It's awful you had to wait so long for the correct diagnosis. And everything you've said is interesting, I'm going to do some reading on it now. I wish you all the best and hope things are settling for you. Do you need medication for the imbalances?

I have another different one. Rapid and strong heart beat, tacycardia the neurologist called it, the cardiologist said it was not a cardio issue but related to brain activity. It results in quick changes in temperature followed by blackout/fainting. In the meantime my stomach pushes into the chest cavity through the diagphram, sliding hiatus hernia or otherwise called a gastric migraine following a brain injury, increased acid production and ulcerated duodenum. I had at least 3 different visual sensory processing issues, after getting glasses for the first one the fainting/blackouts stopped but the stomach and heart rated continued as well as the temperature changes but to a lesser extent. My neuropsychologist put the pieces together and said the visual issues were causing my body to go into panic mode and the heart rate 'dragged' the blood from the stomach and pushed it to various places around the body, causing rapid temperature changes and also causing fainting/blackouts. Since I got more visual treatment and avoidance of LED and fluorescent lighting it has all stopped. No more panic responses, no more crazy heart rates. No more cognitive or physical fatigue either.

The aren't many organs inthe human body we can do with out and probably the two most important one the brain and heart are inextricably linked in a system. So if one is running even a little bit out of kilter it will naturally affect the other.

Everything that calms or excites the heart originates from the brain from hormones and messages to the heart or messages to other organs like adrenal glands. Relatively simple things like Atrial fibrillation (AF) which most people have experienced at some point as a "flutter" in their chest, can be a major contributor to stroles.

Similarly post head injury balance problems are a combination of messages from the lower limbs, hands, eyes, ears and brain. Damage one or more of these and the system doesn't work properly.

However, the problem with brain injury and hear problems is correlating the two against normal age progresssion e.g. cognitive ageing and developing heart problems later in life. I had a head injury in 2012, I am 58 and developed AF this year through sleep deprivation. Would I have developed AF anyway or is that a consequence of everything else ?

I was diagnosed with SVT 25 years ago after frequent attacks of150-bpm pounding heartrate and breathlessness. I was told my only option was ablation as there was no medication available.

After a second opinion I was assured I'd suffered unnecessarily for years as there "most certainly" was a very efficient drug to treat tachycardia. I was prescribed Flecainide which stopped symptoms immediately.

I had a SAH in Dec 2011 and recovered as well as predicted. But in 2018 I was floored by the onset of AF and, after admittance to the cardio ward and monitoring, I was prescribed Rivaroxaban thinners and additional BP meds.

The cardiology consultant would've also prescribed Flecainide had I not already been taking them ; he said they were the no 1 'Go-to' for SVT and AF.

But, apart from the danger of stroke from heart disfunction, I've never heard of brain injury causing heart issues. There's a history of high BP in my family (which I have) so this, and the fact I had SVT prior to the haemorrhage, suggest, for me, it was unconnected.

Hope this helps in some way Indigo..... Cat x

IndigoSunflower in reply to cat3

I've said in another reply about this so sorry for repeating myself here, I originally thought I had postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome which is caused by a dysfunction of the automonic nervous system (dysautonomia). Every time I stood up I'd have a jump in heart rate and although it's normal to have a spike in heart rate when you stand mine was a large difference that would stick around for a minute or 2. I had no postural drop in blood pressure. POTS is caused by a failure in the ANS that is supposed to cause vasoconstriction in the blood vessels in the lower half of the body in order to stop all the blood flowing into your legs because of gravity and therefore keep that oxygenated blood where it needs to be (the brain, heart lungs etc). I get these spells where everything goes black when I stand (called presyncope) and POTS comes from trauma sometimes so I thought maybe that car hitting me caused this. I havent had this diagnosed though. I'd need a tilt table test. So, I have no idea if if the SVT is related to possibly having POTS. My understanding of SVT is this: the heart has a usual electrical pathway, the SA node send a signal to the AV node and the atriums contract, the electrical signals travel down the bundle of His to the pujinkie fibres and the ventricles contract. With SVT the heart creates a new pathway where the signals travel into the new pathway and get stuck looping round and round. I was given a syringe to blow into, it's called the valsalva manoeuvre and it works by the action of holding your breath and straining which has a high success rate of bringing you out of SVT. Don't know why I'm going into so much detail here sorry I know this is a brain site! The end treatment for SVT is ablation yeah but I'm hoping I can control it with medication and lifestyle changes. Sorry to hear about yourAF, I hope it doesn't cause too many problems for you. Sending you so many warm thoughts and good luck!

Yes, I tried the Valsalva maneuver repeatedly but the tachycardia persisted for up to 5 hours at a time. Even in hospital it didn't work and the crash team arrived with defibrillator ! The commotion (and the anaesthetist hitting bone with the canula) shocked me back into NSR without any intervention !

........just so thankful for eventually finding Flecainide 🥴.

Best wishes to you m'dear going forward. x

IndigoSunflower in reply to cat3

Mines much much milder than yours. My longest episode has been about 30 minutes! Glad the medication is working! Take care x

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