Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (WPW Syndrome)

  • Medical Author: Daniel Weitz, MD
  • 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: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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What is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a specific type of abnormality of the electrical system of the heart. This syndrome causes a specific pattern on an electrocardiogram (Wolff-Parkinson-White pattern) and is linked to an episode of rapid heart rates, such as supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) or atrial fibrillation. Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is a treatable medical condition. Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is also referred to as WPW syndrome and pre-excitation syndrome.

Who gets Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Wolf-Parkinson-White syndrome can affect all ages but is usually diagnosed in children, adolescents, and young adults. Except in rare circumstances, Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is not a hereditary condition.

What causes Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

The heart has internal electrical “wiring” that is essential for proper pumping of blood to the rest of the body. In some people, an abnormal extra “wire” is present. This additional connection can cause a short-circuiting that causes the heart to beat very rapidly. This causes abnormal electrocardiogram (ECG) testing with rapid rate rhythms called supraventricular tachycardia or SVT. Of note, the presence of a cardiac arrhythmia such as SVT can be from other heart conditions that are not Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome.

What are the signs and symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Individuals affected by Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome can experience palpitations, rapid heart rates, difficulty breathing, and lightheadedness as well as near loss of consciousness and complete loss of consciousness. For the most part, these symptoms occur all of a sudden and are not associated with warning signs. Usually, there are no dramatic triggers, however, caffeine, alcohol, and exercise can cause the heart to start racing.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/20/2015

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