Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

What Is Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Supraventricular Tachycardia, which is also known by the name of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, is a condition characterized by an abnormally fast heartbeat. This condition normally stems in the atrial or the AV node from where the brain sends the signal to the heart to carry out its functions.

Under normal circumstances, an individual has a heartbeat of 60-100 beats per minute which may go up or down depending on activity. An athlete involved with sprinting and running may have a heartbeat which may go up to 125 beats per minute while running but it comes back down to normal after the activity.

In cases of Supraventricular Tachycardia, the heartbeat does not get back down to normal and stays above 100 beats per minute. This usually occurs when the electrical impulses coordinating the heartbeats malfunction. It may give a feeling of a racing heart.

Individuals who very rarely have episodes of Supraventricular Tachycardia do not require any treatment and may live a healthy life without any problems or restrictions.

For individuals who have frequent episodes of Supraventricular Tachycardia, treatment may be required in the form of medications or lifestyle modifications to control the heartbeat and relieve the symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia.

What Causes Supraventricular Tachycardia?

There can be numerous causes for an individual to have Supraventricular Tachycardia. In some individual, extreme stress, anxiety, lack of sleep may act as a trigger and cause Supraventricular Tachycardia. Some of the common causes for a Supraventricular Tachycardia include:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Thyroid disorder
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Lung disorders
  • Chronic smoking and alcohol use
  • Consuming abnormally high amounts of caffeinated products
  • Drug abuse
  • Certain over the counter cold and allergy medications may also cause an episode of Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • A surgical procedure of any kind may also lead to Supraventricular Tachycardia
  • Pregnancy is yet another cause for Supraventricular Tachycardia

What Are The Symptoms Of Supraventricular Tachycardia?

An episode of Supraventricular Tachycardia tends to come and go quickly and the individual will have normal heart rates in between episodes. The symptoms of a Supraventricular Tachycardia may last from minutes to a few days. In some cases, an individual may not have any symptoms at all of Supraventricular Tachycardia. The symptoms that however are exhibited by an individual with Supraventricular Tachycardia are:

  • Fluttering of chest
  • Palpitations
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Profuse sweating
  • Syncopal spells

How Is Supraventricular Tachycardia Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Supraventricular Tachycardia, the treating physician will begin by taking a complete history of the patient including any history of tobacco, alcohol, or drug use or abuse. The physician will then analyze the symptoms and if Supraventricular Tachycardia is suspected then will order a battery of tests and investigations to confirm the diagnosis of Supraventricular Tachycardia. The test will be first to rule out any underlying thyroid or cardiac problem causing the rapid heartbeat. Once all the conditions have been ruled out then the following tests will be done to confirm the diagnosis of Supraventricular Tachycardia.

Electrocardiogram: This study is done to check the electrical activity of the patient. This test will clearly show that the patient has an abnormal heart rate.

Holter Monitor: This is a portable device which is attached to the patient to record the activity of the heart as the patient goes about his or her activities of daily living.

Event Monitor: This yet another form of portable device which can be attached to the body for a period of about 24 hours and has a button which can be pressed when the patient experiences symptoms. This allows the doctor to the check the heart rate at the time of the symptoms.

Stress Test: The patient will be asked to walk in a treadmill with electrodes attached to the chest and limbs to monitor the activity of the heart. If there is any abnormality in the activity of the heart during the stress test then that will be recorded.

Tilt Table Test: This is a test in which the patient is made to lie down on a table and the heart rate is measured. The table is then tilted and the measures are taken again to check for any change in the heart rate once the angle of the table changes.

The results of all of these tests will identify the cause of the condition and will confirm the diagnosis of Supraventricular Tachycardia.

How Is Supraventricular Tachycardia Treated?

In majority of the cases, individuals do not require any treatment for Supraventricular Tachycardia. However, if the individual experiences frequent episodes of Supraventricular Tachycardia then the physician may recommend the following:

Medications: Medications are also quite helpful in controlling the heart rate and getting them down to a normal level in cases of an individual having frequent episodes of Supraventricular Tachycardia. These medications need to be taken exactly as advised by the physician to prevent any unwanted complication.

Carotid Sinus Massage: This is gentle massage done to the neck, which when done results in release of hormones that reduce the heart rate. This exercise for Supraventricular Tachycardia needs to be done under the supervision of a physician and should not be done alone as it may cause a blood clot or other complications.

Vagal Maneuvers: This maneuver involves holding the breath and straining as if having a bowel movement, splashing the face with ice water, or coughing. All of these maneuvers help in bringing down the heart rate and treating Supraventricular Tachycardia.

Cardioversion: This is a procedure that is done if all the above maneuvers are ineffective in controlling the heart rate. Even medications can be used for this purpose. The procedure involves delivering electrical shock to the heart which affects the electrical impulses generated in the heart and brings down the heart rate significantly and treat Supraventricular Tachycardia.

Pacemaker Insertion: This is done in very rare cases where a device is inserted which is configured to control the heart rate when it increases and bring it down to normal levels and treat episode of Supraventricular Tachycardia.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: May 5, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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