Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
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Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a type of arrhythmia originating in the upper chambers (the atria) of your heart. SVT causes your heart to beat very quickly — at least 100 beats per minute, but can increase to 300 beats per minute. Symptoms of SVT can last a few minutes to several hours and may start and stop suddenly.
Unlike other types of arrhythmias, it’s rare for SVT to be immediately life-threatening. However, when SVT occurs more frequently, lasts for longer periods of time or causes symptoms, it can become a problem.
Our Approach to SVT Treatment
The symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) can be disturbing and uncomfortable. Like any heart rhythm, SVT is of concern.
Cardiologists and electrophysiologists at Houston Methodist are experts in the tests needed to diagnose SVT, as well as the medications that may be required to restore your heartbeat back to a regular rhythm.
About Supraventricular Tachycardia (SVT)
What Causes SVT?
Your heart rate is carefully controlled to ensure your heart’s activity matches your body’s need for blood. An arrhythmia occurs when your heart’s pace-making activity is altered.
In the case of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), your heart beats too fast due to abnormal electrical impulses originating in your heart’s atria — the chambers above your heart’s ventricles (supraventricular).
Alcohol, caffeine, drugs and smoking can increase your risk of SVT.
What Are the Symptoms of SVT?
Symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) can last a few minutes to several hours and may start and stop suddenly. The most common symptom experienced is noticeable, and often uncomfortable, palpitations, as well as a rapid pulse.
If you have SVT, you may also experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Shortness of breath
SVT can also occur alongside a condition known as Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome, which causes similar symptoms.
How Is SVT Diagnosed?
In many cases, symptoms of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) may not be apparent. In addition, because SVT comes and goes, a physical exam and an in-office electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG) may not detect this condition unless you are having SVT at that particular moment in time.
Instead, a continuous recording of the heart’s rhythm using a Holter monitor is more helpful for detecting SVT.
The most accurate SVT diagnostic test, however, is an electrophysiology study. During this study, your doctor uses catheters to induce SVT in order to understand its cause. This information helps your doctor plan the best treatment and rule out other types of arrhythmia.
What Are the SVT Treatment Options?
Unlike some other arrhythmias, supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is rarely a medical emergency and most people don’t require treatment. However, if your SVT occurs more frequently, lasts for longer periods of time or causes symptoms, it can become a problem.
If your SVT requires treatment beyond lifestyle changes, we may prescribe medications to control your heart rate or heart rhythm.
If medications do not reduce your SVT episodes, your doctor may recommend catheter ablation to treat the areas in your heart that are causing SVT.