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A Patient Story: Unusual, Rapid Heart Rate

Posted on September 12, 2022

Heartbeats in Rhythm

Diagnosis and Procedure 
Provide Fast Relief for Crossville Resident

John Kelly, Cardiac Patient at Cardiology Associates of East Tennessee
John Kelly, suffered from episodes of racing and irregular heartbeats. His symptoms resolved after a successful outpatient heart procedure.

Your heart is constantly hard at work delivering oxygen and nutrients through your blood cells to the rest of your body at all times. When your heart beats rapidly, it may be a normal response to things like exercise, illness, or emotional stress.

Sometimes there are moments when your heart beats rapidly, even if you’re not under stress or exercising. Rapid heart rate in these circumstances could be the result of an abnormality in the electrical system of the heart. That was the case for John Kelly, a retiree living in Crossville, Tennessee, even when he was being perfectly still.

Unusual, Rapid Heart Rate

For the past two years, Mr. Kelly experienced palpitations. Palpitations are the sensation of a rapid heart rate in the absence of a reason such as physical exertion.

“It was like I was running a marathon, but I wasn’t moving.”

He was prescribed a beta blocker, a medication used to slow the heart rate and prevent palpitations. The medication alleviated his symptoms to some degree. But he was still having episodes of racing heart and feeling unwell at night. The medication was increased, but the higher dose caused him to feel worse. Mr. Kelly consulted with his local cardiologist in Crossville, who referred him to John Meriwether, MD, cardiac electrophysiologist at Cardiology Associates of East Tennessee.

Identifying the Problem and Best Course of Action

John Meriwether, MD, Cardiac Electrophysiologist with Cardiology Associates of East Tennessee
John Meriwether, MD, Cardiac Electrophysiologist

Adults typically have a heart rate of 60 to 100 beats per minute. A heart rate of more than 100 BPM could be considered too fast depending on age, condition and other factors. Mr. Kelly experienced heart rates as high as 160 BPM.

Dr. Meriwether evaluated Mr. Kelly to determine if a pacemaker implant would be the best option to treat his symptoms.

“When I saw him, it looked like he was experiencing a slightly different type of rhythm that would be responsive to an ablation procedure. The first step was to determine where the fast heart rhythm was coming from.” – Dr. Meriwether

Arrhythmia is a term that means an abnormal heart rhythm. Arrhythmias can be slow or fast, regular or irregular.

“Mr. Kelly’s arrhythmia was a fast, regular tachycardia (a heart rate faster than 100 BPM) originating from the upper chambers. Atrioventricular Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia (AVNRT) is the type of arrhythmia from which Mr. Kelly suffered. It’s one of the most common types of ‘supraventricular tachycardia.’ This refers to the location of the irregular heartbeat within the heart’s chambers.”

Cardiac Ablation at Parkwest Medical Center

In June 2022, Dr. Meriwether performed an electrophysiology study (or EP study) and a procedure called cardiac ablation, specifically targeting the slow pathway that causes AVNRT.

Ablation uses small burns on the inside of the heart to eliminate the electrical signals that cause irregular heartbeats. This can help the heart maintain a normal rhythm.

Dr. Meriwether says that people with episodes of abnormally fast heartbeats that start and end suddenly should talk to their doctor, as their symptoms could indicate a serious condition.

“Five-Star Care”

Months later, Mr. Kelly feels great. His episodes have stopped and his beta blocker gradually was discontinued. He is grateful to have more energy and no palpitations. He says Dr. Meriwether is one of the best doctors he has ever encountered.

“Dr. Meriwether is personable, friendly and very thorough. After the procedure, I had to remain in recovery to rest for several hours. Dr. Meriwether personally came to my recovery room to discharge me late that evening after he had been at the hospital since early that morning. He had even been pulled away to perform other emergency surgeries as well as his scheduled procedures.

When he visited me, he clearly and carefully explained the procedure, what he found and corrected, and what to do post-op. I thought that was ‘beyond’ – that he came in to see me, having been there all day, and to tell me the operation had been a success. I could not have received better care, both from the doctor and the nursing staff at Parkwest Medical Center. I give them five stars!”

Dr. Meriwether explains he believe his job is to properly diagnose and explain everything to the patient so they can not only be involved, but understand the process. This includes medication, procedures and treatment. And, he says, it helps the patient get on board with their treatment plan and ensure they know what’s going on with their health.


Learn More

For more information about the heart care services offered at Cardiology Associates of East Tennessee, please call (865) 373-7100

Disclaimer: please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical advice. If you have a specific medical question or issue, we encourage you to call our office at (865) 373-7100.


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