Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is episodes of
PSVT; Supraventricular tachycardia
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Normally, the chambers of the heart (atria and ventricles) contract in a coordinated manner.
- The contractions are caused by an electrical signal that begins in an area of the heart called the sinoatrial node (also called the sinus node or SA node).
- The signal moves through the upper heart chambers (the atria) and tells the atria to contract.
- After this, the signal moves down in the heart and tells the lower chambers (the ventricles) to contract.
The rapid heart rate from PSVT may start with events that take place in many different areas above the lower heart chambers (ventricles).
PSVT can occur with
The condition occurs most often in young people and infants.
The following increase your risk for PSVT:
Illicit drug use
Symptoms usually start and stop suddenly, and can last for a few minutes or several hours. They can include:
- Chest tightness
Palpitations(a sensation of feeling the heart beat), often with an irregular or fast rate (racing) Rapid pulse Shortness of breath
Other symptoms that can occur with this condition:
Signs and tests
A physical examination during a PSVT episode will show a rapid heart rate. It may also show bounding pulses in the neck.
Because PSVT comes and goes, to diagnose it patients may need to wear a 24-hour
If you do not have symptoms or any other heart condition, PSVT may not need treatment.
If you have an episode of PSVT, there are techniques you can try on your own to interrupt the fast heartbeat.
- One is called the Valsalva maneuver. To do this, you hold your breath and strain, as if you were trying to have a bowel movement.
- Another technique you can try is to cough while sitting with your upper body bent forward.
- Some people find that splashing ice water on the face is helpful.
You should avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs.
Emergency treatment to slow the heartbeat back to normal may include:
cardioversion, the use of electric shock
Medicines through a vein
Long-term treatment for people who have repeat episodes of PSVT, or who also have heart disease, may include:
Cardiac ablation— a procedure used to destroy small areas in your heart that may be causing the rapid heartbeat (currently the treatment of choice for most PSVTs)
- Daily medications to prevent repeat episodes
Pacemakersto override the fast heartbeat (on occasion may be used in children with PSVT who have not responded to any other treatment)
- Surgery to change the pathways in the heart that send electrical signals (this may be recommended in some cases for people who need other heart surgery)
PSVT is generally not life threatening. If other heart disorders are present, it can lead to
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if:
- You often have a sensation of feeling the heart beat quickly and symptoms do not end on their own in a few minutes
- You have a history of PSVT and an episode does not go away with the Valsalva maneuver or by coughing, or other symptoms occur with the rapid heart rate
- Symptoms return often
- New symptoms develop