Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome (cont.)

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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.

What are the potential complications of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?

Wolff-Parkinson-White can lead to significant symptoms from the rapid heart rates and can be alarming when first experienced. In addition, episodes can be disruptive and can last from minutes to hours and in some rare circumstances even days to weeks. The most serious complication of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is sudden death, which is rare and has been estimated to be around 0.25% per year. This very rare occurrence can happen if the short-circuit of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome triggers another arrhythmia called atrial fibrillation that even more rarely can induce ventricular fibrillation. Ventricular fibrillation can cause sudden death if not treated promptly.

How is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome diagnosed?

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Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome is diagnosed when the specific WPW pattern found on an ECG is linked to an episode of rapid heart rates, such as SVT or atrial fibrillation. The WPW pattern is a combination of what is termed a short PR interval and a delta wave. The rapid heart episode is usually from supraventricular tachycardia or SVT. Of note, the presence of an SVT can be from other more common forms of “short-circuiting” not necessarily related to Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, such as atrial flutter or AV nodal reentrant tachycardia (AVNRT).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/16/2013

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