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Supraventricular Tachycardia - Topic Overview

How is SVT diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose SVT by asking you questions about your health and symptoms, doing a physical exam, and perhaps giving you tests. Your doctor:

  • Will ask if anything triggers the fast heart rate, how long it lasts, if it starts and stops suddenly, and if the beats are regular or irregular.
  • May do a test called an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG). This test measures the heart's electrical activity and can record SVT episodes.

If you do not have an episode of SVT while you're at the doctor's office, your doctor probably will ask you to wear a portable electrocardiogram (EKG), also called an ambulatory electrocardiogram. When you have an episode, the device will record it.

Your doctor also may do tests to find the cause of the SVT. These may include blood tests, a chest X-ray, and an echocardiogram, which shows the heart in motion.

How is it treated?

Some SVTs don't cause symptoms, and you may not need treatment. If you do have symptoms, your doctor probably will recommend treatment.

To treat sudden episodes of SVT, your doctor may:

  • Prescribe a medicine to take when the SVT occurs.
  • Show you how you can slow your heart rate on your own. You may be able to do this by coughing, gagging, or putting your face in ice-cold water. These are called vagal maneuvers.

If these treatments don't work, you may have to go to your doctor's office or the emergency room. You may get a fast-acting medicine such as adenosine or verapamil. If the SVT is serious, you may have electrical cardioversion, which uses an electrical current to reset the heart rhythm.

If you often have episodes of SVT, you may need to:

  • Take medicine every day to prevent the episodes or slow your heart rate.
  • Try catheter ablation. This procedure destroys a tiny part of the heart that causes the problem.

What can you do at home to prevent SVT?

You can try some things at home to help prevent SVT by avoiding the things that trigger it. Examples of things you can try:

To find your triggers, keep a diary of your heart rate and your symptoms. You might find, for example, that smoking or alcohol causes your SVT episodes.

For most people, moderate amounts of caffeine do not trigger SVT. So most people do not have to avoid chocolate or caffeinated coffee, tea, or soft drinks.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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