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Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a rare type of arrhythmia (an electrical heart rhythm disorder) present at birth. This condition can lead to episodes of rapid heart rate.
While most cases of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome aren’t life-threatening, complications can occur, and more serious arrhythmia issues can develop.
Our Approach to Treating Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome
Cardiologists at Houston Methodist have extensive expertise in the heart tests needed to diagnose Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, as well as determine the severity of your condition.
If your Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome symptoms are severe, our specialists are also experts in ablation, a catheter-based procedure that may be needed to treat your condition.
About Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome
What Causes Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?
A heart normally has one electrical wire that delivers electricity from the upper chambers (atria) of your heart to the lower chambers (ventricles).
If you have Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, you were born with an extra wire. Because of this extra wire, electricity can pass back and forth between the upper and lower chambers of your heart. This can cause episodes of rapid heart rate that arise sporadically or may even occur several times per week.
Men are affected by this condition more than women.
What Are the Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?
Symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome include:
• Shortness of breath
• Dizziness or lightheadedness
• Chest pain, or tightness in the chest
• Palpitations (the sensation of feeling your heart beating quickly)
Some people with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome experience no symptoms at all, however. In these cases, the condition is often only discovered as the result of a heart test performed for another reason.
How Is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Diagnosed?
If you have Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, you may have been diagnosed at a very young age, during adolescence or as a young adult.
If your doctor suspects you have Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome as an adult, he or she will ask you a series of questions — including details about your family history — as this syndrome is often an inherited condition. Your doctor also may recommend several tests, such as an electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), to monitor your heart rate. In addition, an electrophysiology study can assess your risk of developing severe complications of your condition, such as sudden cardiac arrest.
How Is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome Treated?
If you’re diagnosed with Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, you cardiologist will design a treatment plan specific to your condition.
If you don’t have symptoms, he or she may simply monitor your condition. Medications may be effective for some patients with symptoms.
The curative treatment for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a catheter ablation procedure, in which the extra wire is ablated (destroyed or “burned”), thereby eliminating the arrhythmia.
In the past, open-heart ablation surgery was necessary to cure the condition permanently, but most cases today are cured by this outpatient, catheter-based procedure.