What Is a Wandering Atrial Pacemaker

What Is A Wandering Atrial Pacemaker?

A wandering atrial pacemaker (Wandering Atrial Pacemaker) is a type of heart rhythm disorder which affects the electrical activity of your heart. Wasting syndrome is another name for it. There are two types: atrioventricular (AV) and ventricular tachycardia (VT). AV is a form of ventricular dysrhythmia, while VT is a form of atrioventricular block.

The most common symptoms include shortness of breath, fatigue and palpitations. Other symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, sweating and dizziness.

There are several different types of wandering atrial pacemakers; however all these devices have one thing in common – they do not function properly when there is too much electrical activity in the heart.

In other words, if you have a wandering atrial pacemaker, your heart does not pump blood efficiently. Your body tries to compensate by pumping less blood through the heart. When this happens, the heart rate slows down and you experience chest pain. You may feel like you are going into cardiac arrest or even die from lack of oxygenation.

This is why it is important to get treatment for wandering atrial pacemaker as soon as possible.

Wandering Atrial Pacemaker Causes

There are several causes of wandering atrial pacemaker, including:

Heart disease and conditions: Although heart disease can be inherited or caused by other factors such as smoking or bad diet, it can also be caused by unknown factors such as genetics or unknown external factors. If you have a high likelihood of heart disease, it is much more likely that you will develop a wandering atrial pacemaker. There are several types of heart disease, including:

Coronary artery disease (CAD) occurs when there is a build-up of cholesterol and other fatty materials in the lining of your heart’s blood vessels. This causes the arteries to become narrow and difficult for blood to flow through. If a blood clot forms inside the narrowed vessel, it can completely block the artery and cause a heart attack.

Arrhythmia occurs when electrical signals in your heart misfire and cause the heart to beat irregularly. There are three main types of arrhythmias: extra beats, when your heart beats an extra time; missed beats, where your heart beats too few times; and erratic beats, when your heart skips a beat or beats irregularly.

Heart valve disease is when your heart valves do not open or close properly, allowing blood to leak in or out. The leaking blood may not always go in the direction it is supposed to, which can cause blood to flow the wrong way and decrease the amount of oxygen getting to your organs and tissues. There are many different types of heart valve diseases, including:

Aortic stenosis occurs when a thickened valve prevents blood from easily flowing through it.

Mitral valve disease (MVD) occurs when a valve between the heart’s left atrium and ventricle does not close properly.

Tricuspid valve disease (TVD) occurs when the valve between the right atrium and ventricle does not close properly.

Sick sinus syndrome is a group of problems that affect the rate and rhythm of your heartbeat. It causes your heart to beat too slowly or erratically.

Arterial and venous heart disease occurs when the heart’s blood vessels are narrowed or blocked, preventing enough blood from reaching your heart. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart to your body, while the veins return oxygen-poor blood back to the heart.

Congenital heart disease is a condition that a person is born with. It affects the structure of the heart or how it works.

Risk factors: There are several factors that can increase your risk of developing wandering atrial pacemaker, including:

Your age: The incidence of wandering atrial pacemaker increases as you get older.

Having a family history of heart disease: If close family members such as parents or siblings have experienced heart disease, you are more likely to experience it yourself.

Smoking: If you smoke, you are more likely to develop heart disease than someone who does not.

Obesity: People who are obese often have high blood pressure and are at risk of developing heart disease.

Physical inactivity: People who do not exercise often and lead a sedentary lifestyle are more at risk of developing heart disease than those who do.

Drinking too much alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Diabetes: People with diabetes are at an increased risk of developing heart disease.

High cholesterol: Having high levels of cholesterol in your blood can lead to blockages in the blood vessels, increasing your risk of developing heart disease.

High blood pressure: Having high blood pressure can also lead to blockages in the blood vessels and an increased risk of developing heart disease.

Cigarette smoking: Smoking can increase your risk of developing heart disease.

Sleep apnea: This is a condition where you briefly stop breathing while you sleep. You may be at risk if you are overweight and have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Being female: Women are more likely to experience wandering atrial pacemaker than men.

Complications: If the wandering atrial pacemaker leads to the formation of blood clots, this can result in a stroke.


Your doctor will perform a physical examination and may ask you about any medical problems you are experiencing. He or she may also ask about your family medical history as heart disease often runs in families. A number of different diagnostic tests can help determine the cause of your symptoms. These may include blood tests to check your cholesterol levels and whether or not you are at risk of a heart attack, an electrocardiogram to check the electrical activity in your heart, and an echocardiogram to measure blood flow through your heart.

The wandering atrial pacemaker can be difficult to diagnose because some of the symptoms are similar to those of other conditions such as panic attacks and hyperthyroidism. Your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist, a heart specialist who can perform more in-depth testing to confirm the diagnosis.


The wandering atrial pacemaker is generally quite harmless and treatment is not always necessary. If you do have wandering atrial pacemaker, you may be advised to change some of your lifestyle habits, such as:

You should also talk to your doctor about taking medication to slow your heart rate and lower your blood pressure.


The wandering atrial pacemaker is generally harmless and does not shorten life expectancy. If you feel unwell or experience any symptoms of heart disease, you should seek medical advice.


There are no specific ways of preventing wandering atrial pacemaker but if you feel unwell or experience any heart attack symptoms then you should seek medical advice. High cholesterol is one of the main risk factors of developing heart disease. Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly can help to lower cholesterol levels. If you are overweight or obese, you can lower your risk by eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

Medication may also be required in more severe cases.

Key Points

A wandering atrial pacemaker is when the electrical activity in your heart causes the upper chamber of your heart (the atria) to contract too quickly. This is known as a fast heartbeat. It is not usually dangerous, but can lead to shortness of breath, dizziness, and fainting.

Sometimes a wandering atrial pacemaker can lead to the formation of clots which may travel through your heart and cause a stroke.

Common symptoms of a wandering atrial pacemaker include:

Feeling very tired

Feeling dizzy

Feeling faint

If you think you are experiencing these symptoms, you should seek medical advice.

If you are female, of a certain age, have a family history of atrial fibrillation, or suffer from other heart problems then you may be more at risk of developing wandering atrial pacemaker.

The most common cause of a wandering atrial pacemaker is the electrical activity in your heart getting out of sync, however, this can develop for a number of reasons, including hypothyroidism, or an over active thyroid gland.

A wandering atrial pacemaker can be diagnosed with a physical examination by your doctor and ruling out other potential causes of symptoms such as panic attacks and hyperthyroidism.

Treatment is not always necessary if you are not experiencing any symptoms. If you do experience symptoms then your doctor may ask you to change your lifestyle habits such as avoiding tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and excess sugar. In some cases blood thinning medication may be suggested depending on the cause of the wandering atrial pacemaker.

If symptoms do not improve or they become increasingly severe, an ablation may be recommended. This is a minor procedure that attempts to destroy the part of your heart that is causing the electrical misfires.

If you have a family history of atrial fibrillation or other risk factors for heart disease, it may be suggested that you have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This can detect fast heart rates and correct them with a small electrical shock.

A wandering atrial pacemaker can be very serious and can cause dangerous complications, but it can easily be treated with lifestyle changes or medication. If you think you may have symptoms of wandering atrial pacemaker, you should seek medical advice.

Sources & references used in this article:

Wandering atrial pacemaker (prevalence in French hornists) by PM Nizet, JF Borgia, SM Horvath – Journal of Electrocardiology, 1976 – Elsevier

Persistent wandering atrial pacemaker after epinephrine overdosing–a case report by EH Aburawi, H Narchi, AK Souid – BMC pediatrics, 2013 – Springer

Lithium intoxication causing ST segment elevation and wandering atrial rhythms in an elderly patient by M Kayrak, H Ari, C Duman, EE Gul, A Ak… – Cardiology …, 2010 – journals.viamedica.pl