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What are Bundle Branch Blocks?

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Heart Block related image Photo: Getty Images

Left Bundle Branch Block – Right Bundle Branch Block - Hut 1 – Hut 2!

I swear, the very name of this condition -- Bundle Branch Block -- sounds more like a play you’d expect to hear on the line of scrimmage in a football game than a potentially serious health condition.

What is a bundle branch block anyway? At its simplest level, a bundle branch block is a heart condition related to a malfunction of the heart’s electrical system in the ventricles.

I have to admit that I’m one of those people who generally doesn’t like to be bothered by technical things. When I turn the key in the car, I expect the signal to send telling the starter to crank, the oil to circulate, the radiator to cool, the gas to flow and the engine to purr. How all this magically happens is a mystery and I really don’t want to know all the underlying details that make the car go. As long as it runs, I'm happy!

However, in the case of bundle branch blocks, understanding a little about how the heart’s electrical system works is helpful to understanding what bundle branch block is all about and how it impacts your heart health.

Imagine for a moment that your heart is part of this wonderful electrical circuit that keeps the heart beating, the blood pumping and the oxygen circulating. Just as an electrical current causes your lights to come on when you flip the wall switch, an electrical signal is given the moment your heart beats.

This electrical signal starts at the top of the heart and moves to the bottom of the heart and then begins the circuit all over again. The heart's electrical circuit is as follows:

1. Electrical signal begins in the sinus node or sinoatrial (SA) node located in the upper right chamber of the heart.

2. Signal travels to the right and left atria causing them to pump blood into the ventricles, or lower heart chambers.

3. Signal travels to the atrioventricular, or AV, node located between the atria and ventricles; blood continues to fill the ventricles.

4. Signal travels to the Bundle of His (atrioventricular bundle), which then divides into right and left bundle branches.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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