What is Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia?
Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia is a pathological condition of the heart in which the heart beats in an irregular fashion, which is faster than what is required. By the word Paroxysmal one means that these episodes of irregular heartbeats come and go extremely abruptly and by the word Atrial one means these episodes of fast heartbeat originate from the atrium or the upper chambers of the heart. This condition is also known by the name of Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia. There are other forms of irregular fast heartbeats which originate from the atria and include conditions like atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter and the like. In an episode of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia, the heart rate of an individual may go up to 200 beats per minute. In children with this condition, the heartbeat may go as high as 200 beats per minute which is extremely fast for an infant. Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia is mostly found in children and infants and is a benign condition. There have been some cases where the heartbeat increases to such alarming levels that it becomes life threatening.
What Causes Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia?
The root cause of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia is when there is an abnormality in the electrical signals in the atria resulting in the atria to beat faster than normal. Due to this signal abnormality, there is an irregularity in signals sent to the heart by the SA node which is also termed as the natural pacemaker of the heart. As a result of this, the rate at which the heart beats increases alarmingly and because of this enough blood that is required by the parts of the body to function normally is not achieved.
What are the Risk Factors for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia?
Some of the risk factors for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia are:
- Gender: Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia occurs more in females than in males
- Emotional Health: Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia tends to occur more in people who get emotionally disturbed even by small things happening around them.
- Substance Use: Individual who drink excessive amount of alcohol or caffeine are at risk for developing this condition
- Previous History: If an individual has a prior history of a heart problem then that individual is also at risk for having Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia
What are the Symptoms of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia?
In most of the cases, Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia does not cause any symptoms. In cases where symptoms are observed, the below mentioned are symptoms which will be experienced:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Cardiac arrest in extremely rare cases
- Syncopal event.
How is Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia Diagnosed?
The following tests may be done to diagnose Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia:
Echocardiogram: This test makes use of ultrasound waves to look at the functioning of the heart. This test can accurately identify any abnormality of the functioning of the heart.
Electrocardiogram: This test shows the heartbeat in the form of electrical impulses. This test can show whether there is any abnormality in the rhythm of the heart and whether the heart is functioning normally.
Stress Test: This is a test in which the patient is asked to walk on a treadmill to simulate an environment of stress while the patient is connected to cardiac monitors. The cardiac activity is monitored to see if there is any abnormality present in the functioning of the heart.
How is Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia Treated?
Since Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia is a relatively benign condition hence in most of the cases no particular treatment is required, although some form of treatment may be recommended in cases where the episodes occur too frequently and last for a prolonged period of time. Some of the treatment methods used for treatment of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia are:
Pharmacological Treatment for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia:
Vagal Maneuvers: In this form of treatment, the physician may recommend vagal maneuvers to control the episode of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. Some of the vagal maneuvers are as listed below
- Carotid Sinus Massage. In this maneuver, a gentle massage is done by applying little pressure on the neck at the location of the carotid artery.
- The heart rate can also be controlled by applying gentle pressure to closed eyelids and massaging it softly
- The physician will also recommend the Valsalva maneuver in which you need to press the nostrils while exhaling through the nose
Medications to Treat Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia: This form of pharmacological treatment is for those patients who frequently have episodes of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia and the above mentioned maneuvers are of little to no benefit. If an episode occurs during an office visit to the doctor then an injection of Tambocor may restore the heart rate back to normal. This medication may also be prescribed to keep the rate in check and prevent further episodes of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia.
Lifestyle Modifications for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia: In this form of treatment, the physician will recommend certain lifestyle changes to include abstaining from alcohol and limiting caffeine intake to a minimum. The physician may also suggest indulging in a daily exercise routine to keep the body in shape and be fit and healthy.
Interventional Procedures for Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia: This is done in extremely rare cases of Paroxysmal Atrial Tachycardia. The recommended procedure is known as Catheter Ablation. In this procedure, first the area that is responsible for increased heart rate is identified and removed. It is a nonsurgical procedure and does not require opening the area but just placing a catheter at the affected area and transmitting radio frequency energy so as to destroy the offending area using heat energy.