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My 89 yo moms dr wants her to go to a cardiologist because she may have “sick sinus syndrome.”


Her symptoms have been - almost fainting on occasions. She recovers from these episodes when I apply cool towels and hydration and in about 15-20 minutes she is back to normal. It seems to occur when she gets overheated. She has also mentioned shortness of breath on occasion. Has weakness in legs - from staying in bed too much. And Low blood pressure recently 105/63 - so we took her off the bp meds for now. We just did blood labs and a urinalysis to check for uti’s as well. Getting her to drink enough water is a constant struggle.


Just curious if anyone else has heard of this or seen similar symptoms-


I am making the appointment with a specialist next week. However, Dr appointments and treatments are a challenge with her current dementia — so trying to do as much research as possible. Thanks

Here are a couple of websites describing “sick sinus syndrome.”  Copy and Paste URL to your browser:
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sick-sinus-syndrome/symptoms-causes/syc-20377554?p=1

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000161.htm
Sick sinus syndrome: Normally, the heartbeat starts in an area in the top chambers of the heart (atria). This area is the heart's pacemaker. It is called the sinoatrial node, sinus node or SA node. Its role is to keep the heart beat steady and regular.

Sick sinus syndrome is a group of heart rhythm problems due to problems with the sinus node, such as:

The heartbeat rate is too slow, called sinus bradycardia

The heartbeat pauses or stops, called sinus pauses or sinus arrest

Episodes of a fast heart rate

Slow heart rhythms that alternate with fast heart rhythms, called bradycardia-tachycardia or "tachy-brady syndrome"

My Mom had a pacemaker put in when she was 70 years old, had the battery changed when she was 78 years old and again when she was 85 years old.  It is a relatively simple operation and the only incision is where the battery pack is inserted under the skin.  They thread the wires to the heart under the skin and do not do "open heart surgery".  Mom went home within 48 hours of having her first pacemaker put in and within 24 hours after the new battery and new wires put in.   It made all the difference in the world as she was able to be more active and some days could outrun me.

Your Mom's situation is complicated by her Dementia, but with patience and understanding, I think that you and she can get through the various cardiology appointments.  Your Mom may have to be sedated slightly during some of the cardiac tests if her Dementia does not allow her to cooperate.  People with Dementia can become frightened easier than normal especially in unfamiliar situations.  Good Luck.
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Caringfor1 Apr 7, 2019
Thank you. This is very helpful.
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If a pacer is needed, it is a short operation but last I heard she should not raise her arm for a month.
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Caringfor1 Apr 7, 2019
Thank you for replying. Post op is a concern given age and dementia.
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Ok now I am frightened. She’s had off and on fainting spells for a few years now. I hope to find out more soon after the ecg test. Just worried about any serious surgeries at 89. Also given the dementia. Thanks for the info.
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You will have a few appointments to go through until you two decide on a pacemaker to resolve the issues. You will then be down to follow up cardiology appointments every 4 to 6 months afterwards
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Caringfor1 Apr 5, 2019
Thank you.
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My dad had a pacemaker implanted for this several years ago. He had symptoms like you describe
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Caringfor1 Apr 5, 2019
Thank you. How old was your dad at the time? And what was recovery post op?
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I've heard of it, yes. I believe it is a bit of a "zebra," to use facetious medical students' terminology; and in any case my expertise stops there. But if your mother's doctor thinks she should see a cardiologist, she should see a cardiologist.

The overheating could be a symptom, of course, rather than a cause. Unless there is an obvious cause such as her putting on her coat when your back's turned, or something like that.

Have transient ischaemic attacks (TIAs) been ruled out? TIAs, for comparison, would be common or garden variety horses.

Did the bloods rule out a cardiac event? Small/silent heart attacks can be detected from blood tests, just wondering if that was included.

I sympathise with the difficult logistics. How do you travel to appointments with your mother?
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Caringfor1 Apr 5, 2019
Thanks for feedback. I take my mom to appointments. Using a lightweight transport chair if walking distance is too far. Blood test were ok. Looking at other options as well as medications that may cause similar symptoms. Thx
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Yes, it is a heart muscle conduction issue. The sino-atrial node that sends the heart a message to beat doesn’t work thus heart rate can be erratic and the heart can’t do it’s job correctly. Google it for more info.
She will need a pacemaker inserted to treat this. If left untreated (no pacemaker) her chances of her heart just stopping are very high.
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