ID: 166
Category: Heart condition
CreatedBy: 1
UpdatedBy: 1
createdon: 14 Jul 2017
updatedon: 26 May 2023

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Author: Khoa Tran
Published Jul 14, 2017
Updated May 26, 2023

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Sick Sinus Syndrome

History of Sick Sinus Syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome (SSS) is a heart rhythm disorder characterized by an abnormal cardiac conduction system. The condition was discovered when electrocardiography (ECG) technology was invented in 1881.

Electrocardiography is a non-invasive test that records the electrical activity of the heart. The ECG machine produces a graph of the electrical signals, which can be used to diagnose various heart conditions. One of the first applications of ECG technology was to investigate abnormal heart rhythms, such as arrhythmias, and to identify the causes of these disturbances.

In 1906, Mal Flack reported the first mammalian sinoatrial node (SAN), where much of it's function was unknown at the time.

In the 1960s, Irene Ferrer described SSS as a series of symptoms that was still difficult to diagnose. The condition was identified in patients who presented with symptoms of dizziness, fatigue, palpitations, and fainting, often accompanied by changes in heart rate or rhythm. Physicians observed that many of these patients had an abnormal ECG pattern, characterized by a slow, irregular heart rate and abnormal P-waves.

Today, we still use the same observational techniques as the 1960s to diagnose this condition. However, advances in medical technology have led to better treatment of SSS. For example, we have implantable cardiac devices such as pacemakers and defibrillators can help regulate the heart's rhythm, while advanced imaging techniques such as echocardiography can provide detailed information on the structure of the heart and its function.

Modern Understanding of Sick Sinus Syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome (SSS) is a condition that affects the heart's ability to regulate its own rhythm. The sinoatrial (SA) node, also known as the sinus node, is a group of cells in the heart that acts as the body's natural pacemaker. It sends electrical signals to the heart to make it contract and pump blood throughout the body. When this node is damaged, it can cause a number of symptoms and complications.

Sick sinus syndrome is most commonly seen in older adults, but can also affect young people. The exact cause is not always known, but it is often associated with age-related wear and tear on the heart, as well as certain medications or medical conditions.

Symptoms of sick sinus syndrome can include heart palpitations, dizziness, fainting, confusion, and shortness of breath. These symptoms occur because the heart's rhythm is irregular, which can cause the body to receive less oxygen than it needs.

Causes of Sick Sinus Syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome is a condition where the heart's natural pacemaker fails to function properly, leading to irregular heart rhythms. There can be various causes of sick sinus syndrome, including the following:

- Age: As we age, the electrical system of our heart tends to weaken, leading to an increased risk of sick sinus syndrome.
- Heart disease: People with a history of heart disease such as coronary artery disease and heart attack are at a greater risk of developing sick sinus syndrome.
- Genetics: Sometimes, sick sinus syndrome can run in families due to genetic mutations.
- Medications: Certain medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, and digoxin can lead to sick sinus syndrome as a side effect.
- Sleep apnea: People with sleep apnea have episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep, which can lead to changes in heart rhythms, including sick sinus syndrome.
- Infections: Some viral infections such as Lyme disease can cause inflammation of the heart muscles, leading to sick sinus syndrome.
- Radiation therapy: People who have received radiation therapy in the chest area may develop sick sinus syndrome.

It is important to seek medical advice if you have any symptoms of sick sinus syndrome, such as dizziness, fatigue, or irregular heartbeats.

Treatments for Sick Sinus Syndrome

Sick sinus syndrome (SSS) is a condition where the sinus node of the heart (the natural pacemaker) does not work properly. The treatments for SSS depend on the severity of the condition and the symptoms experienced by the patient. 

Mild cases of SSS may not require any treatment, but regular monitoring of the patient's heart rate and rhythm may be necessary. For more moderate cases, medications like beta-blockers, calcium-channel blockers, and anti-arrhythmic drugs can be prescribed to regulate the heart's rhythm and rate. However, these medications may not always be effective and can have side effects.

In severe cases of SSS, a pacemaker implantation may be necessary. A pacemaker is a small device that is surgically implanted under the skin of the chest or abdomen. It helps regulate the heart's rhythm and rate by sending electrical impulses to the heart. The doctor will evaluate the patient and recommend the best type of pacemaker for that individual.

In rare cases, if the sick sinus syndrome is caused by an underlying condition, such as an autoimmune disease, then treating that underlying condition may improve the SSS symptoms.

It is essential to consult a doctor to determine which treatment option is best suited for you or your loved one, as each individual case of SSS is different.

Lifestyle Changes

- Maintaining a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can put additional strain on the heart, increasing the risk of arrhythmias.
- Reducing stress: Stress can trigger or worsen arrhythmias, so it's important to find ways to manage stress, such as through meditation, deep breathing exercises, or other relaxation techniques.
- Avoiding stimulants: Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can increase heart rate and trigger arrhythmias in people with SSS.
- Eating a heart-healthy diet: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing arrhythmias.

However, it's important to note that lifestyle changes alone may not be enough to manage SSS, and medication or other medical treatments may be necessary. It's important to talk to a healthcare provider about the best treatment plan for managing SSS.


Irregular heartbeat
A sensation of rapid, fluttering heartbeats
Slower than normal heart beat (below 60 beats/minute)
Chest tightness
Chest pain
Shortness of breath

Confirmation Tests

- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Holter monitor
- Event recorder
- Implantable loop recorder

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