A Quick Guide to my Heart

Right folks. After spending Friday night in hospital with my heart doing slightly silly things, and thinking we’d sorted this out 18 months ago, here’s a quick guide to what’s going on inside me.

This first video is a normal sinus rhythm. It has a standard PQRST formation and this is what your heart and my heart does most of the time. If you’re at all interested, this link tells you what all the different bits mean, but basically the little hump at the start is the beginning of the electrical pulse (the P wave), the big spike is the R wave and is preceded by a little dip (the Q wave). The little dip after the R wave is the S wave and the T wave is the bit at the end that looks like a mountain top (as opposed to the spike of the R wave). PQRST = up down up down up. The important things for what’s coming next is that the T wave primes the electrical pulse for the next heart beat.

Right, we all have these. Some of us however are lucky enough to get some of this stuff below in-between. This is an ECG form for Ventricular Bigeminy and this is what I’ve been getting, both on Friday night and right now as I’m typing this. The irregular heart-beat happens every second beat (hence BIgeminy) and either occurs just once or repeats for a number of occasions. The second beat is basically the left ventricle beating too early and too hard. What I’ve been experiencing is multiple occasions of these, sometimes over half a minute without stopping. It basically causes the heart to pump the blood in a manner pretty close to what it does during a heart attack, so I get a pain in the chest and sometimes accompanied by a feeling of light-headedness and other symptoms. In my particular case, sometimes the T wave from the first normal beat is inverted and that has a particular effect on how the electrical charge is setup for the next beat.

And the bottom line is that it isn’t a heart attack though and each time when I’ve been checked my troponin levels have been absolutely fine. All the symptoms of myocardial infarction without any of the downsides.

Lots of people have one-off ventricular bigeminy and they don’t even notice it. The danger though of what I’ve got (though I’ve never come close to this) is that if the bigeminy continues on and on it can turn into this which is called Ventricular Tachycardia. This is bad and people die very quickly. You can tell just by listening to it can’t you?

As I said, I’m nowhere near this, but I still have a spontaneous ventricular bigeminy that comes on at rest and sometimes doesn’t stop for over half a minute. Quite fun to watch on the monitor as it’s happening! This can be caused by any number of things, and the next step is to find out why my heart is doing it. The obvious answer is to rule out any structural issues by performing an echocardiagram which is essentially an ultrasound of the heart. This lets the Doctor see if there is anything actually wrong with my heart.

In the meantime I’m absolutely fine. I know what’s happening and most of the time I just get a little dull ache that goes after a minute or so. Thursday night was much more extreme and that’s why I went to get myself checked out. And as my GP said on Friday afternoon when I saw him, whenever you get unexplained chest pain which goes on for more than a minute or two, you should always get it checked out. Unless you’re sure it was just the kebab you had half an hour ago.

Now I’m hungry…

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