can 1st degree heart block cause death - Arrhythmia Alliance

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can 1st degree heart block cause death


I was told that I have this condition after having what feels like skipped bests for years. It sounds scary, but my gp doesn`t seem concerned. I keep reading about young people having cardiac arrests out of the blue, could I be at risk for that?

5 Replies


The mechanism behind sudden cardiac death is different than that of a heart block. Sudden cardiac arrest happens when the ventricles, the lower chambers in your heart, start beating very fast, so fast that they only quiver, but do not pump blood through the body any longer. An external or implantable cardioverter defibrillator is then needed to shock the heart back into its natural rhythm, so that it starts pumping blood again.

A heart block, on the other hand, is caused by the AV-node blocking eletrical impulses coming from the upper chambers of your heart, the atriums (sinus node). Normally this node - which is located at the junction of the atriums and ventricles - passes the impulse on to the ventricles, and that makes them pump. When the AV-node blocks signals, your heart skips a beat. If it blocks several consecutive impulses, this can lead to a pause (and that can lead to you getting dizzy or fainting), or a rhythm originating in the ventricles kicks in as a kind of back-up. This back-up usually beats much slower, around 20 - 40 beats per minute, but it keeps your heart going. The major risk of heart block, I'd say, is that the pause in your heart beat makes you pass out. If that happens while you are, for instance driving your car, you could have an accident. I know a couple of complete heart block patients who had pauses of more than 10 seconds, but the important thing is: even though they passed out, the back-up rhythm kicked in after a while. They have a pacemaker now which prevents these pauses from happening.

In first degree heart block, your AV-node blocks an impulse every now and then, and just one, not several in a row. That's why you feel your heart skipping a beat. This is usually not an indication for treatment. It's highly unlikely that this will make you pass out, and it won't cause sudden cardiac arrest. If I were you, I'd just have this monitored, for instance with a holter monitor (24 hour ECG) one a year or every two years or something like that. In some cases a 1st degree heart block progresses to 2nd or 3rd degree heart block, but I don't know how high/low that risk actually is. Don't know anyone who's had this, all the heart block patients I know started out with 2nd or 3rd degree, some had congenital 3rd degree heart block, so they were born with them (and lived without a pacemaker for 20-30 years, because their back-up rhythm was fast enough). So, I'd just keep an eye on it and make sure that your heart block doesn't progress. But for now I'd really not worry too much.



I was 50 before I got mine and have had complete av block since birthday.



You've had a really good reply from Berlinerin and I can't add to that.

I have a friend in her late forties who is diagnosed with first degree heart block. She is worried like you, and her GP is behaving in the same unconcerned manner.

I would ask for an appointment with your GP to go through your concerns, and would suggest you read up about the condition for a reliable site first so that you understand the diagnosis, causes, treatments, risks of it developing into 2nd or 3rd degree block.

In that way you can talk everything through from an informed perspective and be reassured. From what I have read, 1st degree heart block doesn't get treated unless it causes problems or progresses.

I think it's worrying though to be told that there is anything wrong with your heart. You need to express your concerns and talk them through so that you can relax and get on with life afterwards.


hairyfairy in reply to Hidden

Iv`e read that skipped beats without dizziness, can be caused by the vagus nerve, & not the heart. Could my heart be healthy even with the skipped beats, or should I regard myself as a cardiac patient from now on?


There are several causes of skipped heartbeats as far as I know.

You need a proper interpretation of them from a qualified doctor rather than from someone online.

The vagus nerve can cause all kinds of problems, but again, nobody online can tell you whether or not this is what is causing your problems. You need to be tested and speak to a professional.

Could you ask your doctor for a referral or ask her/his advice?


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