Breath-hold technique could help develop a better treatment for cardiac arrhythmia

Scientists have developed a technique that may enable those suffering from arrhythmia to hold their breath for 5 minutes while undergoing cardiac ablation.

Myupchar January 24, 2020 18:05:00 IST
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Breath-hold technique could help develop a better treatment for cardiac arrhythmia

Deep inspiration breath-hold (DIBH) is a form of radiation therapy that is used primarily for breast cancer and cancers of the upper abdomen. It involves holding your breath while radiation is delivered to the region - this is done so that the contracting action of the lungs pulls the heart away from the chest. This way, the heart isn’t subjected to unhealthy amounts of radiation.

Breathhold technique could help develop a better treatment for cardiac arrhythmia

Representational image. Image by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay.

Now, scientists at the University of Birmingham have developed a technique that may enable those suffering from arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) to hold their breath for five minutes while they undergo cardiac ablation. Cardiac ablation is a procedure that involves destroying or removing the small part of heart tissue that is allowing incorrect electrical signals to cause abnormal beating. 

Hypocapnia for arrhythmia treatment

The technique involves inducing mechanical hyperventilation (rapid breathing) using a ventilator which delivers air through a face mask. The rapid breathing causes hypocapnia (reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the blood). The encouraging news is that mechanical hyperventilation and hypocapnia had no adverse reactions on the participants of the study who were suffering from angina (chest pain when the heart doesn't get enough oxygen-rich blood). 

Hypocapnia subsequently helps in breath-holding as the drive to breathe is diminished because breathing is regulated by the level of carbon dioxide in the blood and not oxygen. The researchers suggested that this ability to hold the breath could be harnessed for targeted radiotherapy for arrhythmias. 

Currently, arrhythmias are treaded by cardiac ablation which uses radiofrequency or surgical methods to cauterize tissue. These are invasive techniques that, at the very least, require the use of a catheter. Radiotherapy will be non-invasive and applied from outside the chest. While the study was small (there were only 18 participants) and it will be a while before targeted radiotherapy with breath-hold becomes a reality, these initial steps are encouraging as non-invasive therapies lead to fewer complications.

Reducing the risk of heart conditions

As always, there are preventative steps that can be taken that will lower the likelihood of heart conditions arising in the first place. Here are a few of them:

1. Take a deep breath: Practice slow, deep breathing for at least a few minutes every day. It can lower your stress levels, improve blood flow and lower your blood pressure.

2. Exercise in a sustainable way: You don’t have to be pumping iron if you don’t want to. Short, brisk walks, lifting light weights such as heavy books or a few push-ups daily will go a long way in keeping your heart young.

3. Try a diet that is good on the heart: Fruits and leafy vegetables are great for your overall health, including your heart. Seafood is also a good option, you can have it in place of red meats.

4. Quit smoking: While this is easier said than done, giving up on smoking will lower the likelihood of a host of disorders and infections, all of which take a toll on the heart.

5. Have some chocolate and wine: Dark chocolate and wine are good sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants reduce the damage caused by free radical which keeps your heart healthy. So long as you consume them in moderation, they will keep you happy and your heart pumping.

For more information, read our article on Arrhythmia: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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