Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a group of heart arrhythmias that involve the top chambers of the heart (atria) and cause your heart to beat too fast (tachycardia). “Supra” means “above,” so supraventricular literally translates to “above the ventricles.”
Symptoms of SVT may include palpitations (sensations of a racing heart), lightheadedness, chest tightness, shortness of breath and fainting.
Types of supraventricular tachycardia include:
SVT is diagnosed primarily three ways through procedures or portable devices that allow physicians to evaluate patient heart rhythms:
- Electrocardiogram, also known as EKG or ECG, involves an electrical tracing of your heart. An EKG reveals heartbeat rate, whether the heart’s rhythm is irregular, and the strength and timing of the heart’s electrical signals as they pass through the upper and lower chambers.
- Event monitor (also called mobile telemetry) is worn by patients for continuous heart tracking when an EKG is not possible because SVTs usually happen intermittently and without warning and can’t always be recorded during a scheduled EKG appointment. Physicians are immediately notified when the cardiac monitor detects an abnormal heart rhythm. They review the recordings as part of making their diagnosis. Scripps physicians helped pioneer the use of a wireless 14-day heart monitor.
- Electrophysiology study (also known as an EP study or EPS) is where catheters to record the heart’s electrical activity are inserted in a patient’s veins in the upper leg and guided into the heart. Medications, pacing through the catheters and the recording of the heart’s electrical signals help doctors identify heart arrhythmias.
Scripps has one of the region’s most advanced electrophysiology labs equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostics and testing equipment, and staffed by highly skilled physicians.
Treatment may include:
- Antiarrhythmic medications that can suppress the abnormal rhythm.
- 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.
- Cryoblation is a procedure similar to radiofrequency but uses cool energy instead of heat to treat arrhythmias.