Atrial tachycardia is a type of supraventricular tachycardia caused by the abnormal firing of a group of cells in one of the top chambers of the heart (atria). These cells fire at a higher rate than the normal rate. The result is an unhealthy heartbeat of 100 beats per minute (BPM) or more. Symptoms may include heart palpitations (sensations of a racing heart), lightheadedness, chest tightness, shortness of breath and fainting.
Doctors perform an electrocardiogram to detect and diagnose atrial tachycardia. An electrocardiogram (ECG) is an electrical tracing of the heart. It tells doctors your heart rate, whether the heart rhythm is irregular and the strength and timing of electrical signals as they pass through each part of the heart.
Because most atrial tachycardia episodes happen intermittently, patients may be required to wear a heart monitor (also known as mobile telemetry or event monitor). The monitor records heart activity around the clock and can detect abnormal rhythms, which are recorded and provided to your physician for review in making a diagnosis.
Atrial tachycardia can’t always be detected separate from other types of supraventricular tachycardia by an electrocardiogram or a heart monitor alone and may require an electrophysiology study for specific determination. The newest 3-D mapping equipment is available at Scripps for proper diagnosis and frequent care of atrial tachycardia and SVT.
An electrophysiology study (also known as EP study) is another way to diagnose atrial tachycardia. Doctors insert catheters in a patient’s veins in the upper leg to reach the heart and record electrical activity. They also send signals to make the heart beat at different rates as part of the procedure. Patients commonly receive sedation and anesthesia to make them comfortable and pain-free during an electrophysiology study.
Treatment may include:
- Antiarrhythmic medications that suppress the abnormal rhythm.
Minimally invasive procedure
- Radiofrequency ablation where a catheter emitting heat energy is advanced into the heart to cauterize the abnormal electrical circuit or focus. The procedure is performed in conjunction with an electrophysiology study.
Atrial ventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT)
Atrial ventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT) is another type of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) caused by an abnormal electrical short circuit between one of the top chambers of the heart (atria) and the channel connecting the top and bottom chambers of the heart (atrioventricular node or AV node). The short circuit results in a continual loop of electrical activation at a rate much faster than the rate of the sinus node. The result is an unhealthy heart rate of 100 BPM or higher.
Atrial ventricular nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVRT) — also known as Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW) — is a type of atrial tachycardia caused by an abnormal electrical short circuit between one the top chambers of the heart (atria) and the bottom chambers of the heart (ventricles). It is due to an extra pathway called a bypass tract, in addition to the atrioventricular node (AV node). The result: an unhealthy heart rate of 100 BPM or more.