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- What is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- Who gets Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- What causes Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- What are the signs and symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- What are the potential complications of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- How is Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome diagnosed?
- What is the treatment for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- What is the prognosis for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
- Can Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome be prevented?
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?
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).
What is the treatment for Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome?
A range of treatment options is available for the management of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome. In the majority of people without any symptoms, there is no need for immediate treatment. However, when or if symptoms suspicious for an episode of rapid heart rate occur, a cardiac electrophysiology study is recommended. A cardiac electrophysiology study is a minimally invasive surgical operation in which special wires inserted through the veins in the legs are used to measure electrical activity inside the heart. During this procedure, the connection can be identified, and importantly, can be eradicated, or ablated (a procedure known as ablation). A successful ablation of an extra connection can permanently treat all the symptoms of Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, including the risk of sudden death. Finally, in some circumstances, eradication of the extra connection is not possible to perform safely or not desired by the patient. Medications can then be prescribed to help reduce the frequency of rapid heart rate episodes. Of note, the extra connection in the heart can be located on the left side of the heart (type B) or on the right side of the heart (type A).