When Your Heart Starts Racing Unexpectedly

Could it be stress related? One busy, young mom finds out it could be a Heart Rhythm Disorder.

Jen Headshot (723x800) Jennifer Howze was experiencing random episodes of a racing heart rate. After three frightening experiences, she was diagnosed with SVT.

Jennifer Howze thought she was having an anxiety attack when she was rushed to the Emergency Room in June of this year. While watching her son’s baseball game, she fell unconscious at the ball field and when she woke up she felt her heart racing. In the ER, her heart rate was 230 beats per minute and she was given IV medication to slow it down. Her ER doctor advised the busy 36-year-old working mom to control her stress level and to stay hydrated.

A few weeks later, it happened again. She thought if she could remain calm, she could slow her racing heart down on her own. But she could not. After a third episode and another trip to the ER, she made an appointment with cardiologist Dr. Hari Baddigam who specializes in electrophysiology. After reviewing her electrocardiograms (ECGs), from the previous ER visits, he was able to diagnose Jennifer with Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT) – a heart rhythm disorder.

“In a normal heart, electrical signals travel certain pathways in order to trigger the contraction, or pumping, of the upper and lower chambers,” said Dr. Baddigam. “These signals pass through nodes which control the heart rate, signaling when to speed up with physical activity and when to slow down when the body is at rest. In patients with SVT, these electrical signals sometimes travel down additional fibers or pathways and bypass the node, which allows an abnormally fast heart rate.” While normal adults have heart rates of 60 to 100 beats per minute, people with SVT can have episodes with heart rates of 160 to 220 beats per minute, or as in Jennifer’s case, even faster. These episodes can last minutes or hours causing palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and in rare cases, loss of consciousness.

Jennifer’s treatment options were to take medication everyday for the rest of her life to prevent or control the episodes or to have a procedure called a cardiac ablation which is a cure for the condition in 90 to 95 percent of cases. In August, Jennifer scheduled her cardiac ablation.

The ablation procedure was performed in the cardiac catheterization lab at Bay Medical Sacred Heart – the only hospital in our region with the advanced technology to provide this service. First, Dr. Baddigam mapped the electrical pathways in Jennifer’s heart and identified the location of the extra pathway causing the problem. “In order to stop the electrical signals from taking these extra pathways,” said Dr. Baddigam, “radiofrequency energy is used to ablate, or burn, a tiny area of the heart muscle which creates scar tissue that blocks the signal.” The procedure is performed through an IV line to access a vein, where a small, spaghetti-sized, flexible tube is navigated through the blood vessels to reach the heart.

Now, more than three months later, Jennifer has not had an episode since. “Initially I was still worried that it might happen again,” said Jennifer. “The previous three episodes were very scary for me and my family. Now that several months have gone by without incident, I have my peace of mind back. It was definitely worth it to have the procedure.”

Cardiac Electrophysiologists Hari Baddigam, M.D. and J. L. Trantham, M.D. with the Cardiovascular Institute of Northwest Florida are the only physicians in Panama City and the surrounding area able to perform cardiac ablations and with access to the advanced technology necessary to map the cause of heart rhythm disorders.

Preventing Strokes with Carotid Stenting

Interventional cardiologist Dr. Samir Patel talks with WMBB News 13 about treating clogged carotid arteries to prevent stroke. The golden standard treatment has long been an open surgical procedure, but in many cases, a minimally invasive stenting procedure can be done in the cardiac cath lab.

New Procedure Opens Chronic Arterial Blockages & Improves Quality of Life for Patients

A chronic total occlusion (CTO) is a 100% blockage in a coronary artery that has hardened over time making it difficult to open without major surgery. Now, new technology and new techniques available in the cath lab at Bay Medical Sacred Heart allows cardiologists Dr. Amir Haghighat and Dr. Samir Patel to help patients who are suffering from chest pain, shortness of breath and other symptoms of CTO to regain their quality of life.

CVI Participates in Clinical Trial of Dissolving Stent

Bay Medical Center and cardiologist Dr. Amir Haghighat enroll the first local patient in a US trial of Absorb – a scaffold or stent used to open a clogged coronary artery that dissolves within two years instead of leaving a metal device behind.

Signs of Heart Disease in Women

Dr. Haghighat and patient Mrs. Kucera speak with WMBB-TV about why it’s important for women to be aware of the signs of heart disease. A woman’s symptoms are not always the same as a man’s.

Top Rated Care for Heart Attacks

News 13 talks with a heart attack survivor and cardiologist Dr. Amir Haghighat about the importance of getting help fast. Bay Medical is one of America’s 100 Best Hospitals for Cardiac Care with the cardiologists at CVI playing an integral part in these outstanding ratings.

CVI Participates in National Carotid Stent Registry

Dr. Amir Haghighat talks with WMBB about the importance of following a patient’s progress in a carotid stent registry. Carotid Stenting was approved in 2011 for use in all carotid patients, however select hospitals, like Bay Medical, are monitoring patients progress in a registry to enhance the care that carotid patients receive in the future all over the country.

High Risk Patients Successfully Treated with the IMPELLA LVAD at the CardioVascular Institute of Northwest Florida

Interventional cardiologists at the CardioVascular Institute of Northwest Florida have a new tool in their fight against coronary artery disease and heart attacks.  The AbioMed’s IMPELLA 2.5 Liter Left Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), also touted as the “world’s smallest heart pump”, has been successfully used by interventional cardiologists at the CardioVascular Institute of Northwest Florida since March 2011.  The patients considered needful of this device were those with severe, non-operable coronary disease.  Indeed, some patients were suffering from massive heart attacks.


The IMPELLA heart pump is a new minimally invasive treatment option for the most serious of cardiac patients who are deemed too high-risk for surgery.  The IMPELLA is inserted through a small incision in the groin and advanced into the main pumping chamber of the heart, the left ventricle.  Once placed, the heart pump essentially “takes over” the pumping function of the heart, allowing cardiologists to perform high-risk angioplasty procedures for non-operable coronary disease while reducing the risk of heart attack or death during the procedure.  After the procedure is successfully completed, the heart pump is removed with minimal recovery time.  Since the IMPELLA allows the heart to rest and recover by actively taking over the work load of the heart’s main pumping chamber, patients in cardiogenic and advanced heart failure may also benefit from the IMPELLA heart pump.


With the support of Bay Medial Center/Sacred Heart Health Systems, the CardioVascular Insitute of Northwest Florida was instrumental in bringing this new technology to Bay County and the Florida Panhandle.  Prior to the use of the IMPELLA heart pump, patients with severe coronary disease or massive heart attacks who were not candidates for traditional coronary bypass surgery would be faced with extremely high risk of complications or death.  The IMPELLA heart pump is one more option in our treatment of the “sickest of the sick” cardiac patients.  The CardioVascular Insitute of Northwest Florida strives to remain in the forefront of the constantly evolving medical landscape to provide its patients the most progressive cardiac care and the widest selection of treatment options.