Bundle Branch Block - An Internal Electrical Problem

by Garreth Myers


The human heart periodically sends an electrical impulse to the different valves and ventricles of the heart. This electrical impulse tells the heart to beat. Sometimes this electrical impulse gets blocked. This blockage is called a bundle branch block. The bundle branch block is that blockage in the heart that slightly delays the electrical impulse that causes the heart to beat.

About Bundle Branch Block

The heart is divided into the right and left ventricle and these impulses pass through each of the ventricles. The electrical impulses in both ventricles have to occur at the same time. But, due to bundle branch block, these impulses do not happen together. If there is a block in any one ventricle, the impulse travels a wee bit slowly. The left or right bundle branch block is decided on which block is affecting which ventricle. If the block is the right ventricle, it is called right ventricle bundle branch block and if it electrical impulse is blocked in the left ventricle, it is called a left ventricle bundle branch block.

A left bundle branch block is considered more serious. A person with a left bundle branch block is more likely to experience symptoms rather than a person with a right bundle branch block. The left bundle branch block symptoms are vague and involve conditions like anxiety, dizziness which can also be mistaken for other heart conditions. The bundle branch block causes include coronary artery disease, cardiomyopathy, or the valve disease. If it is a right bundle branch block, it can happen even in a healthy heart.

If you only have the bundle brand block syndrome of either ventricle, there are usually no bundle branch block symptoms. But if there are no bundle branch block symptoms, you can go through life with the threat of a larger heart disease. Sometimes patients are known to feel some bundle branch block symptoms. These include unexplained fainting which is also called syncope; the sensation that you are going to faint which is called presyncope; and having a slow heart beat which is called bradycardia.

If you faint and your doctor is unable to find out why, you should insist on a complete health check up. Ask your doctor to rule out all possible causes. This particular ailment is the kind where you need to mention the fact that you have bundle branch block in your emergency medication information. If you have had a heart attack in the past, chances are you have at least one of both bundle branch blocks. The blocks represent an additional complication to your already weakened heart and give you higher chances of complications and death.

The left and right bundle branch blocks are caused by two different sets of health conditions. The left bundle branch block is caused by heart disease, congestive heart failure, rheumatic fever, cardiomyopathy or thickened or stiffened or weakened heart muscle, arteriosclerosis, metastatic heart tumors and hypertension or high blood pressure. Sometimes a left bundle branch block can also be caused by an infection called myocarditis. This is an infection of the heart muscle that affects the electrical impulse that passes through the left ventricle.

The right bundle branch block is caused by a slow heart rate, heart arrhythmia and cardiac arrest or sudden cardiac death. When the bundle branch block occurs only on the right side, it is also called incomplete bundle branch block and is considered the underlying cause for heart disease. There are instances when despite a right bundle branch block occurs in healthy individuals and further medical tests show no other complication. In such cases, the right bundle branch block can be ignored. When both bundle branch blocks happen together, it is usually fatal as there is no electric impulse sent to the heart to beat.

Diagnosis

The bundle branch block is diagnosed with an electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG). This bundle branch block EKG test involves hooking you up to a series of electric nodes. These nodes then measure the pattern of the heart beat. The EKG strip will tell the doctor whether the pattern matches that off bundle branch blockage. The presence of these blocks may the diagnosis of other heart problems more difficult and the discovery of these blocks can also be accidental. The doctor could be conducting an EKG for another possible complication and discover this instead. You may also have an echocardiogram to check for bundle branch blocks. An echocardiogram gives a detailed image of the structure of the heart, indicating the thickness of the muscle. It will show the blood flow and where it is being obstructed. The echocardiogram will also show movement of the valves.

Treatment

There is no direct bundle branch block treatment especially if you are symptom free. However, if you have an underlying heart condition that has lead to the blocks, then there are many different procedures. You could be put on medications to bring down your blood pressure or to remedy heart failure if you have had an attack.

It could also involve a procedure called coronary angioplasty where the artery leading up to the heart is opened up. Through surgery, a stent is inserted into your heart to allow the blood to flow freely. A thin tube is inserted into an artery in the leg and its tip is guided to the blocked artery in the heart. The tip is ballooned and briefly inflated to remove a blockage. Sometimes the procedure is done in such a way that the blockage removal mechanism is a permanent one. If you have shown syncope, the doctor could also fit in a pacemaker to regulate the heartbeat. The artificial pacemaker is a battery-operated that is planted under the skin, near the heart. These pacemakers have a mechanism that recognizes when the heart needs a pulse, and provides an electrical pulse to keep it beating normally.

In emergencies, for patients with left bundle branch block, sometimes reperfusion therapy is administered. This is especially for patients who have had a heart attack and have the block. In this procedure, medications are given to dissolve clots in the heart and increase the blood flow.


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