Sinus arrhythmia: What it is? Symptoms and Treatments

Our heart beats at a regular rhythm from the moment we are born to the moment we die. During our lifetime, there may be changes to the heartbeat that may warrant certain treatment. One such change to the rhythm of the heartbeat is called sinus arrhythmia. In this article, we shall take a brief look at this clinical condition.

What is Sinus Arrhythmia?

In order to understand what sinus arrhythmia is, it is essential to know how the heart beats. At the top of the right atrium is a small electrical generator called the sinus node. This sinus node generates electrical impulses that are transmitted through certain fibres through to the other parts of the heart. These electrical impulses are ones that result in the contraction of the heart.

The sinus node generates electrical impulses at a rate of 60 -100 impulses per minute, which in turn translates as 60 to 100 heartbeats per minute. It does so in a regular fashion but in some cases, this may not be as regular. In other words, the heartbeat can be regularly irregular and this is termed as sinus arrhythmia.


Sinus arrhythmia can be a normal finding in a number of different individuals. In particular, patients who are young tend to have this rhythm. Furthermore, changes in the rate of respiration can also result in an alteration of the heartbeat and this is known as a respiratory sinus arrhythmia. This alteration is seen due to change in the activity of certain nerve fibres known as the parasympathetic nerve fibres.

Types of sinus arrhythmia

Broadly classified, there are two main types of sinus arrhythmia. Respiratory sinus arrhythmia is the alteration in the heartbeat that occurs during breathing. It is a fairly common phenomenon seen in individuals due to changes in vagal tone. Non-respiratory sinus arrhythmia is one that is seen in young individuals that may indicate an underlying cause or just be a normal phenomenon.

Clinical symptoms

Patients who have sinus arrhythmia rarely have any form of clinical symptoms. However, a small group of them may experience palpitations i.e. a feeling that the heart is beating abnormally or racing quite fast. These symptoms are fairly subjective and are nothing to worry about.

Diagnosis of sinus arrhythmia

A diagnosis of sinus arrhythmia can be quite easily made on clinical examination and can be confirmed by performing an electrocardiogram. An electrocardiogram will demonstrate normal sinus activity but the presence of some degree of irregularity. In those patients in whom the ECG is normal, a 24 hour recording of the heartbeat can help.

Treatment of sinus arrhythmia

Patients with sinus arrhythmia rarely require treatment. Patients experiencing additional symptoms may require other forms of treatment.


Sinus arrhythmia is a common phenomenon. It often occurs due to alteration in vagal tone seemed during respiration though it can also be seen in young individuals. No specific treatment is required.

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