What is Supraventricular Tachycardia?

By: Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta and Dr. Sameer Gupta

In simple terms, Supraventricular Tachycardia or SVT, refers to an anomaly in the heartbeat, typically with respect to the rate of the heartbeat. It can further be defined as a condition that encompasses several other troubles related to the rhythms of the heart.

Commonly, phrases in day to day conversation, revolving around ideas like a “rapid heart,” “a racing heart”, “palpitations” and so on, point towards the aforementioned conditions. While the existence of symptoms that fall under the ambit of the term is not new, the condition under the name it carries as “Supraventricular Tachycardia” is less known and must be laid emphasis upon.

Typically, a normal heartbeat ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Anything above 100 beats is viewed as “abnormal”. There is no specific age at which the condition may be developed in the individual. It could arise in teenagers and adults alike. When the electrical impulses in the heart, which aid the heart to beat at constant intervals, get disrupted, Supraventricular Tachycardia arises.

Symptoms to look for

Examining the symptoms of Supraventricular Tachycardia in detail, they may often be confused with the symptoms of an anxiety or a panic attack; however, the two must not be confused. Sometimes no symptoms occur at all. This is when it becomes difficult to gauge the existence of the condition in the body.

Common symptoms include dizziness, palpitations, fainting spells and shortness of breath. Usually they start without any warning and last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. In case these symptoms persist and interfere with one’s day-to-day activities, it becomes essential to seek medical help immediately. If coupled with an already existing medical condition, especially with regards to a heart disorder, supraventricular tachycardia could prove to be very dangerous. In itself, however, it does not pose to be dangerous if caught in time.

The different types of Supraventricular Tachycardia are categorized on the basis of the way in which the different chambers of the heart trigger electrical impulses. Though they are different classifications, the ones commonly encountered are Atrial Tachycardia, Atrio-Ventricular Reentry tachycardia(AVRT) and Atrioventricular Nodal Reentry Tachycardia or AVNRT make for the main types of Supraventricular Tachycardia.

Treatment

There are some techniques to control the condition yourself without having to rush to the hospital except in emergency cases. These techniques are referred to as “vagal maneuvers” as they help arouse the vagus nerve thus slowing down the speed of the heartbeat per minute. Coughing, washing your face with cold water, holding your knees against your chest especially for the younger age group are some maneuvers. Although these techniques can work, a medical checkup & medications prescribed by medical professionals are imperative.

One’s lifestyle forms a significant aspect of the prevention of Supraventricular Tachycardia. A healthy heart diet, a day-to-day fitness regime, a balanced caffeine intake and avoiding self-medication take us a long way in keeping heart disorders such as this one, at bay.

Dr. Sameer Gupta FACC, FSCAI, Diplomate, National Board of Echocardiography (USA)
Dr. Gupta, awarded the status of “Extraordinary Ability and Achievement” by the United States Government in 2013, is a highly skilled cardiologist specializing in Interventional cardiovascular and peripheral procedures. A native of New Delhi, Dr Gupta spent 10 years in USA to accumulate knowledge, experience & awards returning to India to deliver world-class health care to his country and serve its people.
Dr. Sonia Lal Gupta, MBBS, Diplomate of American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
Sonia Lal Gupta MD is a highly qualified Board Certified Neurologist. After completing her MBBS from Government Medical College Patiala, she pursued Neurology at New York Medical College. She graduated in 2011 becoming one of the youngest neurologists in the world at the age of 27.

Image: Lead II (2) ECG EKG tracing of Supraventricular tachycardia SVT in a 40 year old male. Source/Author: James Heilman, MD. Date: 28 May 2010. Access the original Image information here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SVT_Lead_II-2.JPG