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Seizure-Induced Cardiac Arrhythmias - Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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Cardiac arrhythmias from seizures show the complex interaction between the brain and the heart. Read the article below for more information.

Written by

Dr. Durga. A. V

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Yash Kathuria

Published At September 28, 2023
Reviewed AtFebruary 9, 2024


An intriguing and intricate relationship between the brain and the heart can be seen in seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmias. It has long been understood that seizures, which are aberrant electrical discharges in the brain, are largely neurological phenomena. However, new research suggests that seizures can have a significant impact on heart function and cause a variety of arrhythmias.

A complex mix of direct and indirect routes underlies the relationship between cardiac arrhythmias and seizures. While indirect consequences result from systemic changes brought on by seizures, direct effects come from changes in the autonomic nervous system's activity. Comprehending the mechanisms underlying seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmias is essential to improving patient care and outcomes.

What Are Seizure-Induced Cardiac Arrhythmias?

Cardiac arrhythmias brought on by seizures are referred to as seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmias. Although seizures are aberrant electrical events in the brain, they can also impact the heartbeat activity. The regular electrical signals that regulate the heart's rhythm can get disrupted during a seizure, resulting in various arrhythmias. These arrhythmias can range from minor palpitations to more serious disruptions that would need medical attention. To avoid potential consequences and guarantee the well-being of people who are having seizures, it is crucial to identify and treat cardiac arrhythmias brought on by seizures.

What Are the Causes of Seizure-Induced Cardiac Arrhythmias?

The following list of primary causes can be distilled:

  • Autonomic Nervous System Imbalance: Seizures upset the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system's natural equilibrium, causing an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system. This imbalance may cause conduction, contractility, and heart rate abnormalities, which may result in arrhythmias.

  • Overactive Sympathetic Nervous System: Seizures can result in overactive sympathetic nervous system activity, which can increase heart rate, increase contractility, and result in arrhythmias.

  • Parasympathetic Withdrawal: Seizures may cause a decrease in parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) activity, which can cause arrhythmias by upsetting the heart's regular rhythm.

  • Hypoxemia: Seizures can impair breathing and lower blood oxygen levels, which causes hypoxemia. The heart's electrical stability can be harmed, and arrhythmias can be encouraged by insufficient oxygen supply.

  • Acidosis: Excessive lactate generation during seizures might cause acidosis. Acidosis changes the pH balance of the heart and interferes with ion channels, which raises the danger of arrhythmias.

  • Electrolyte Imbalances: Seizures can alter the amounts of electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, and calcium, which are essential for healthy heart function. Electrolyte imbalances may exacerbate arrhythmias.

Can Seizures Lead to Cardiac Arrhythmia?

Seizures do not themselves cause cardiac arrhythmias. Certain conditions associated with seizures can lead to cardiac arrhythmia. A deficiency of oxygen to the brain during a seizure activity can lead to cardiac arrhythmia. Certain metabolic disorders and genetic conditions can cause both seizures and cardiac problems. Certain anti-seizure medications may affect the heart rate or heart rhythm.

Can Heart Problems Cause Seizures?

Cardiac problems do not directly cause seizures. In some scenarios, some heart problems are related to seizures.

  • Syncope (fainting).

  • A deficiency of oxygen supply to the brain (hypoxia).

  • Cardiogenic syncope (deficiency of blood flow to the brain).

  • Arrhythmias.

How to Diagnose Seizure-Induced Cardiac Arrhythmias?

The main steps in detecting seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmias are as follows:

  • Medical History Assessment: A complete assessment of the patient's medical history will be done by the healthcare professional, with special attention paid to any past seizure history, cardiac problems, or symptoms that might indicate arrhythmias during or after seizures. Information on the seizures' frequency, length, and other features must be gathered.

  • Physical Examination: The patient will get a thorough physical examination to determine their overall health, including a cardiovascular assessment to look for any indications of structural or rhythmic cardiac abnormalities.

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG): An ECG is a key diagnostic tool to assess the heart's electrical activity. It captures the heart's rhythm and can aid in identifying any irregularities or arrhythmias that might manifest before, during, or after a seizure. To record any irregular or intermittent arrhythmias, it may occasionally be necessary to do prolonged or continuous ECG monitoring (heart monitoring or event recording).

  • Echocardiogram: Echocardiography employs ultrasound waves to provide images of the anatomy and operation of the heart. It can assist in locating any structural irregularities or underlying heart issues that might support the emergence of arrhythmias.

  • Laboratory Tests: Blood tests can be performed to check the levels of electrolytes (such as potassium, sodium, and calcium) and other factors that may impact how well the heart works.

  • Electrophysiological Investigations: In some circumstances, electrophysiological investigations may be carried out to evaluate the heart's electrical conduction system thoroughly. Catheters are inserted into the heart as part of these tests to map the electrical pathways that cause arrhythmias, which helps diagnose and choose effective treatments.

What Is the Treatment Plan For Seizure-Induced Cardiac Arrhythmias?

The following is part of the seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmia treatment plan:

  • Antiepileptic Medications: Controlling seizures using antiepileptic drugs provided by a neurologist or epileptologist is the main goal of seizure management. Effective seizure management can lessen the incidence of cardiac arrhythmias brought on by seizures.

  • Cardiac Drugs: To treat and manage cardiac arrhythmias directly linked to seizures, a cardiologist may prescribe beta-blockers, antiarrhythmics, or calcium channel blockers.

  • Cardiac Monitoring: Modifying one's lifestyle can help lower seizure activity and, subsequently, the risk of cardiac arrhythmias. For example, one might avoid triggers that may cause seizures, such as lack of sleep, stress, and alcohol.

  • Vagus Nerve Stimulation (VNS): For people with refractory seizures and related cardiac arrhythmias, VNS is a therapy option. It entails implanting a device that sends electrical impulses to the vagus nerve, which can assist in lowering the frequency of seizures and the danger of arrhythmias.

  • Seizure Detection and Alarm Systems: Seizure detection and alarm systems can be used for people at high risk of cardiac arrhythmias brought on by seizures. These tools track physiological alterations linked to seizures, such as changes in heart rate or oxygen saturation, and they sound an alarm to notify caregivers or medical staff.


A multimodal treatment strategy is necessary to manage seizure-induced cardiac arrhythmias to address both the underlying seizure activity and the related cardiac abnormalities. The objective is to stabilize the heart's electrical rhythm while achieving effective seizure control. Antiepileptic drugs are essential for minimizing the risk of cardiac arrhythmias and preventing seizures. These drugs are created specifically for the type of seizures the patient experiences, and they can be used in conjunction with antiarrhythmic drugs to target and control irregular heart rhythms. Arrhythmias must be identified and recorded via continuous cardiac monitoring, such as ambulatory ECG monitoring or implanted devices. It ensures prompt action when necessary and aids in guiding treatment decisions. Additionally, seizure detection and warning systems can add extra protection for people at high risk of developing cardiac arrhythmias brought on by seizures, enabling immediate medical help.

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Dr. Yash Kathuria
Dr. Yash Kathuria

Family Physician


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