Arrhythmia awareness could save lives

Each year an estimated 400 people under the age of 35 die suddenly from unexpected heart failure – often caused by a heart rhythm disorder known as an arrhythmia. This equates to around eight deaths per year in Norfolk.

This week is national Arrhythmia Awareness Week (12-19 September) and Simon Bowles, the arrhythmia nurse specialist at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, will be on hand to answer questions about this little-known condition.

Arrhythmias are most commonly suffered by older people as a result of heart attacks or congenital heart disease. These may vary from relatively benign atrial arrhythmias such as atrial fibrillation to potentially dangerous ventricular arrhythmias. However, young people with the potential for an arrhythmia may be unaware of any symptoms and often lead very active lives before being affected.

National charities including the Arrhythmia Alliance are keen to raise awareness among families who may have lost a relative through sudden cardiac death, as the condition is known to run in families.

A simple ECG test can often detect the condition and initiate further investigation. Once diagnosed, arrhythmias can be treated with drugs. In some high-risk cases, a device known as an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) may be fitted to jolt the heart back into a normal rhythm when a dangerous problem occurs.

Until June this year, all local patients needing ICDs would have to travel to Papworth for specialist treatment but now this and their subsequent follow-up care can be provided at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

So far, six patients have been fitted with the device at NNUH and there are currently around 90 patients with ICDs living in the norfolk area, ranging in age from late 20s to their 80s. Increasing numbers of these patients attend a clinic at NNUH for follow-up care.

Notes for editors

One of the youngest people in Norfolk to be fitted with a life-saving ICD (at Papworth) is 30 year old Joanne Kiddell, a mother of two from Great Yarmouth. She is willing to talk to the press about her experience but would prefer not to be photographed or to do radio or TV interviews.

More information can also be found at

Tuesday 12th of September 2006 11:00:00 AM