Learn About Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia

What is the definition of Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) is episodes of rapid heart rate that start in a part of the heart above the ventricles. "Paroxysmal" means from time to time.

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What are the alternative names for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

PSVT; Supraventricular tachycardia; Abnormal heart rhythm - PSVT; Arrhythmia - PSVT; Rapid heart rate - PSVT; Fast heart rate - PSVT

What are the causes of Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

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.
Conduction system of the heart

The rapid heart rate from PSVT may start with events that occur in areas of the heart above the lower chambers (ventricles).

There are a number of specific causes of PSVT. It can develop when doses of the heart medicine, digitalis, are too high. It can also occur with a condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, which is most often seen in young people and infants.

The following increase your risk for PSVT:

  • Alcohol use
  • Caffeine use
  • Illicit drug use
  • Smoking
What are the symptoms of Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Symptoms most often start and stop suddenly. They can last for a few minutes or several hours. Symptoms may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Chest tightness
  • Palpitations (a sensation of feeling the heartbeat), often with an irregular or fast rate (racing)
  • Rapid pulse
  • Shortness of breath

Other symptoms that can occur with this condition include:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
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What are the current treatments for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

PSVT that occurs only once in a while may not need treatment if you don't have symptoms or other heart problems.

You can try the following techniques to interrupt a fast heartbeat during an episode of PSVT:

  • Valsalva maneuver. To do this, you hold your breath and strain, as if you were trying to have a bowel movement.
  • Coughing while sitting with your upper body bent forward.
  • Splashing ice water on your face

You should avoid smoking, caffeine, alcohol, and illicit drugs.

Emergency treatment to slow the heartbeat back to normal may include:

  • Electrical 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 medicines to prevent repeat episodes
  • Pacemakers to 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)
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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

PSVT is generally not life threatening. If other heart disorders are present, it can lead to congestive heart failure or angina.

When should I contact a medical professional for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?

Contact your health care provider if:

  • You have a sensation that your heart is beating quickly and the 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.
  • You have other symptoms with the rapid heart rate.
  • Symptoms return often.
  • New symptoms develop.

It is especially important to contact your provider if you also have other heart problems.

What are the latest Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia Clinical Trials?
Atrioventricular Nodal Reentrant Tachycardia Ablation With irrigATEd catheteR And Three-dimensional elecTroAnatomiC Mapping (WATER ATTAC)
Summary: The WATER ATTAC study aims at multicentric, longitudinal, perspective evaluation of safety and efficacy of atrioventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) performed combining irrigated ablation catheter and three-dimensional electroanatomic mapping system. Efficacy and rate of complications will be evaluated over medium and long term follow-up.
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VIVO in a Practical Clinical Experience
Summary: A multi-center, observational registry conducted in Europe and the UK to prospectively review VIVO in a clinical setting in 125 patients.
What are the Latest Advances for Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia?
Safety and Efficacy of Cryoablation for Right Ventricular Moderator Band-Papillary Muscle Complex Ventricular Arrhythmias.
Summary: Safety and Efficacy of Cryoablation for Right Ventricular Moderator Band-Papillary Muscle Complex Ventricular Arrhythmias.
Successful use of stellate ganglion phototherapy in refractory ventricular tachycardia in a patient with cardiac sarcoidosis.
Summary: Successful use of stellate ganglion phototherapy in refractory ventricular tachycardia in a patient with cardiac sarcoidosis.
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Meta-Analysis of Catheter Ablation Outcomes in Patients With Cardiac Sarcoidosis Refractory Ventricular Tachycardia.
Summary: Meta-Analysis of Catheter Ablation Outcomes in Patients With Cardiac Sarcoidosis Refractory Ventricular Tachycardia.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 09, 2022
Published By: Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Dalal AS, Van Hare GF. Disturbances of rate and rhythm of the heart. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 462.

Kalman JM, Sanders P. Supraventricular Tachycardias. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Bhatt DL, Solomon SD, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 65.

Page RL, Joglar JA, Caldwell MA, et al. 2015 ACC/AHA/ HRS guideline for the management of adult patients with supraventricular tachycardia: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines and the Heart Rhythm Society. Circulation. 2016;133(14);e471-e505. PMID: 26399662 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26399662/.

Zimetbaum P. Supraventricular cardiac arrhythmias. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 58.