Third-Degree Atrioventricular Block

When DJ was 17 months old a horrible virus caused a Third-Degree Atrioventricular Block.

What is a Third-Degree Atrioventricular Block?

It's a medical condition where the SA node (the hearts natural pacemaker; sets the heart rate) cannot do its job of sending impulses to propagate the ventricles (start the pump of blood throughout the body). The body does have a backup plan for if the SA node fails, the AV node is considered the secondary pacemaker. The AV node is only 40-60 beats per minute and the SA node is 60-100 beats per minute, which is a great decrease of blood pressure.

Anything less than 60 beats per minute causes bradycardia which will become a serious problem if the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen rich blood to the body. A Third-Degree Atrioventricular block is when the AV is also blocked, and its classified as a complete heart block in many cases, where bradycardia is a common symptom.

What are the treatments?

In some less severe cases the heart block can go away on its own if the factor causing it are treated, such as changing medications or taking medications to increase heart rate (short term solution). The cure is a permanent pacemaker, which is what DJ got surgery for after the virus in his heart caused the third-degree atrioventricular block when he was 17 months old. The pacing may not be successful if the underlying diseases causing the heart block don't receive treatment. Unfortunately, what caused DJs heart block was an underlying virus that was never seen before, or since. The virus was dormmate for 16 years after his surgery, until it woke up and destroyed his heart in a matter of weeks by causing cardiomyopathy (hard for the heart to deliver blood to the body) which lead to his passing.

How to tell if you have one (symptoms):

Seek medical attention if experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if having past heart problems or family history of third-degree atrioventricular block.

What causes a third-degree atrioventricular block?

A third-degree AV block can be caused by damage to the heart from surgery, damage to the heart muscle from a heart attack, heart disease that results in muscle damage, heart valve disease, some medications, rheumatic fever (results if strep throat is not treated properly) and sarcoidosis (growth of tiny collections of inflammatory cells in different parts of the body). Some babies are born with a heart block and it may also be genetic factors. In DJs case it was a virus he contracted at 17 months old.

Learn More

Pediatric Cardiomyopathy
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Congenital Heart Disease
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Atrial Fibrillation
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