Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT)

  • Medical Author:
    Benjamin Wedro, MD, FACEP, FAAEM

    Dr. Ben Wedro practices emergency medicine at Gundersen Clinic, a regional trauma center in La Crosse, Wisconsin. His background includes undergraduate and medical studies at the University of Alberta, a Family Practice internship at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and residency training in Emergency Medicine at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

  • Medical Editor: Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI
    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Daniel Lee Kulick, MD, FACC, FSCAI

    Dr. Kulick received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Southern California, School of Medicine. He performed his residency in internal medicine at the Harbor-University of California Los Angeles Medical Center and a fellowship in the section of cardiology at the Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center. He is board certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiology.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

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What are the symptoms of paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)?

One of the most common symptom of PSVT is heart palpitations, often described as a "rapid heartbeat." There can also be a fullness in the throat that is associated with the rapid heartbeat. 

Other symptoms include the following:

The symptoms of PSVT usually occur while the heart is beating quickly, but the fatigue can persist after the heartbeat returns to normal. By its nature, PSVT is intermittent and its onset cannot be predicted. As well, once the heart starts to beat quickly, there is no way of predicting if and when it will return to normal rhythm on its own. Some patients are unaware that their heart is beating quickly and PSVT is found only when the patient presents for care and is found to have a rapid heartbeat.

How is paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT) diagnosed?

The diagnosis of PSVT is based upon interpretation of the heart rate monitor and electrocardiogram.

Sometimes the diagnosis is difficult because the rapid heart rate resolves before the patient presents for medical care. In these cases, where there is a recurrent pattern of palpitations, the healthcare professional may suggest monitoring the patient's heart rate and rhythm as an outpatient. A Holter monitor is a small device that can be worn for 24 or 48 hours that records every heartbeat and may give a clue as to the underlying cause of the palpitations. A 30-day event monitor may also be considered, which gives a longer window to detect the rhythm. Again, a small monitor is worn, but with this device the patient triggers the recording when the palpitations begin. In some cases, specialized electrophysiology tests may be necessary to monitor the heart and try to reproduce abnormal rhythms.

For infrequent events, an implantable device (LINQ) can be placed just under the skin, and can scan for a month looking for rare rhythm changes.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2016
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