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Heart Disease Health Center

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Ventricular Tachycardia - Topic Overview

How is ventricular tachycardia diagnosed?

If an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG) can be done while ventricular tachycardia is occurring, it often provides the most useful information. An electrocardiogram is a tracing of the electrical activity of your heart. It is usually done along with a history and physical exam, lab tests, and a chest X-ray.

Because ventricular tachycardia can occur intermittently and may not always be captured by an EKG at the doctor's office, you may be asked to use a portable EKG to record your heart rhythm on a continuous basis, usually over a 24-hour period. This is referred to by several names, including ambulatory electrocardiography, ambulatory EKG, Holter monitoring, 24-hour EKG, or cardiac event monitoring.

Your doctor may recommend further tests, including an echocardiogram, to evaluate your heart's function, a stress test or coronary angiogram to determine whether a part of the heart is not getting enough blood, and/or an electrophysiology (EP) study. An EP study can locate specific areas of heart tissue that give rise to abnormal electrical impulses, which may be causing the ventricular tachycardia. This information is used to determine the best treatment.

How is it treated?

If you are having symptoms and are in a sustained tachycardia, it is a medical emergency. You will need immediate treatment. You may need CPR or a shock from an automatic defibrillator (also known as an AED). Paramedics or your doctor may try intravenous medicines or electrical cardioversion to return your heart to a normal rhythm.

To prevent the arrhythmia from recurring, you may need to take antiarrhythmic medicines.

Your doctor might recommend an implanted device, called an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD). An ICD can detect an abnormal heart rhythm and restore a normal rhythm.

Heart Rhythm Problems: Should I Get an ICD?

In some cases a procedure called catheter ablation is used to destroy small areas of heart tissue responsible for the arrhythmia. Catheter ablation might make the arrhythmia happen less often or stop the arrhythmia from happening again.1

It is very important that any causes of ventricular tachycardia be identified and treated, if possible. For example, if the ventricular tachycardia results from a medicine, the medicine needs to be stopped.

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