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Heart Disease Health Center

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Supraventricular Tachycardia - Treatment Overview

Supraventricular tachycardia is usually treated if:

  • You have symptoms such as dizziness, chest pain, or fainting (syncope) that are caused by your fast heart rate.
  • Your episodes of fast heart rate are occurring more frequently or do not revert to normal on their own.

Treatment for sudden-onset (acute) episodes

When episodes of supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) start suddenly and cause symptoms, you can try vagal maneuvers-such as gagging, holding your breath and bearing down (Valsalva maneuver), immersing your face in ice-cold water (diving reflex), or coughing. These simple maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve, which can slow conduction of electrical impulses that control your heart rate. Your doctor will teach you how to do vagal maneuvers safely.

Your doctor may also prescribe a short-acting medicine that you can take by mouth if vagal maneuvers don't work. This allows some people to manage their SVT without having to visit the emergency room repeatedly.

If your heart rate cannot be slowed using vagal maneuvers, you may have to go to your doctor's office or the emergency room, where a fast-acting medicine such as adenosine can be given. If the arrhythmia does not stop and symptoms are severe, electrical cardioversion, which uses an electrical current to reset the heart rhythm, may be needed.

Ongoing treatment of recurring supraventricular tachycardia

If you have recurring episodes of supraventricular tachycardia, you may need to take medicines, either on an as-needed basis or daily. Medicine treatment typically includes beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, other antiarrhythmic medicines, or digoxin. In people who have frequent episodes, treatment with medicines can decrease recurrences. But these medicines may have side effects.

Many people with supraventricular tachycardia have a procedure called catheter ablation. This procedure can stop the rhythm problem in most people. Ablation is considered safe, but it has some rare, serious risks.

Supraventricular Tachycardia: Should I Have Catheter Ablation?
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