Paroxysmal Supraventricular Tachycardia (PSVT) (cont.)

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What is the treatment for paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia (PSVT)?

There is a stepwise approach to treating the rapid heartbeat of PSVT.

Vasovagal maneuvers stimulate the vagus nerve and can slow the heart rate. Some options include holding one's breath and bearing down as if to have a bowel movement or splashing cold water on the face. A care professional might cautiously massage the carotid artery in the neck, but in older patients, there is a risk of stroke and this procedure is usually reserved for younger patients.

Depending upon the heart rhythm, medications can be injected intravenously to reset the AV node or to decrease heart muscle excitability. Adenosine is a short-acting medication that is commonly used as a first-line drug to treat PSVT. Other treatment options for other atrial tachycardias include calcium channel blockers, beta blockers, digoxin, and amiodarone.

If the PSVT does not convert with intravenous medication or if the patient has low blood pressure or complains of chest pain or shortness of breath, cardioversion may be required. This means that an electrical shock is given that resets the heart's electrical system to beat with a regular rate and rhythm.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/23/2013

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