Fast Heart Rhythms
A typical heart beats 60 to 100 times a minute. Rates faster than this are known as tachycardias.
Supraventricular tachycardias (SVT)
Tachycardias can arise from the upper chambers of the heart or the lower chambers. Supraventricular tachycardias (SVTs) are fast heart rhythms that arise from the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). SVT is a kind of arrhythmia that is generally not life-threatening, but can be quite bothersome. The rapid beating causes strain on the heart. The limited time between beats may lead to inefficient blood circulation, which can cause symptoms.
Symptoms of fast heart rhythms may include:
- Rapid pulse
- Passing out
Types of tachycardias we treat
Major types of SVT include:
- Atrial fibrillation
- Paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)
- Atrial flutter
- Atrial tachycardia
During atrial fibrillation (AF), the two upper chambers of the heart that receive blood, called the atria, quiver erratically rather than beat correctly. The heart cannot pump properly, causing the blood to pool and settle within the “nooks and crannies” of the heart itself.
When blood doesn’t move throughout the body normally, it may clot, forming a small cluster that can interfere with circulation. When a blood clot forms within the heart, it can move to somewhere else in the body. If such a blood clot lodges in the brain, it can cause injury or even death of brain tissue. This is known as a stroke, which is the most dangerous consequence of atrial fibrillation.
Blood clots may also travel elsewhere in the body, such as to the lungs (known as a pulmonary embolism), heart (causing a heart attack), intestines, arms and legs. While stroke is the most dangerous consequence of atrial fibrillation and may require therapy with blood thinners, atrial fibrillation has other important consequences that we may need to address.
AF can promote rapid heart rates, which may need to be slowed, as well as symptoms that harm your quality of life. Our physicians have unique expertise in managing this common, often irritating, arrhythmia. We employ the latest medical and interventional strategies.
MedStar Heart Institute uses advanced technology in our approach to the treatment of atrial fibrillation, including:
- Catheter ablation
- Surgical ablation
- Convergent catheter and surgical ablation
Paroxysmal means from time to time. PSVT is an abnormal rapid heart rhythm that occurs occasionally, often starting and stopping suddenly without any warning. Often, abnormally active heart muscle tissue, or an electrical “short circuit” within the heart causes PSVT. Catheter ablation therapy is generally the treatment of choice for this problem and usually cures it permanently (>90 percent cure rate). Learn more about our treatments for arrhythmias.
Atrial flutter is similar to atrial fibrillation. With atrial flutter, the upper two chambers quiver more regularly, but still extremely rapidly (generally 300 times per minute). Similar to atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter can:
- Increase the risk of stroke
- Cause the heart to beat too rapidly
- Cause symptoms that affect your quality of life
The first choice of treatment for atrial flutter is similar to PSVT. Catheter ablation is the intervention of choice in most cases, because it is a relatively simple procedure and can cure this arrhythmia in the vast majority (>95 percent) of cases. Learn more about our treatments for arrhythmias.
Atrial tachycardia is caused by abnormally rapid impulses that arise from the upper chambers of the heart. Often, a single area of cells is the cause, causing the heart to beat too quickly. Common symptoms of atrial tachycardia are:
In most cases, we can easily identify the source of the problem and correct it, using catheter ablation, which can cure this arrhythmia in the vast majority (>90 percent) of cases. Learn more about our treatments for arrhythmias.
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