Sick sinus syndrome is the name for a group of heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) in which the sinus node — the heart's natural pacemaker — doesn't work properly.

The sinus node is an area of specialized cells in the upper right chamber of the heart that controls the rhythm of your heart. Normally, the sinus node produces a steady pace of regular electrical impulses. In sick sinus syndrome, these signals are abnormally paced. A person with sick sinus syndrome may have heart rhythms that are too fast, too slow, punctuated by long pauses — or an alternating combination of all of these rhythm problems.

Sick sinus syndrome is relatively uncommon, but the risk of developing sick sinus syndrome increases with age. Many people with sick sinus syndrome eventually need a pacemaker to keep the heart in a regular rhythm.

May. 20, 2011