Ventricular tachycardia, also called VT or V-tach, is a type of abnormal heart rhythm that occurs when the heart beats too fast. It is a potentially life-threatening condition that can result in heart attack, stroke, or sudden cardiac arrest. Depending on the severity of the condition, the best treatment aims to:
Normalize the heart rate
Control the fast heart rate when it occurs
Prevent future episodes of ventricular tachycardia
- Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR): Emergency procedure of chest compression that is often given in combination with artificial ventilation and must be followed by defibrillation in most cases
- Electrical defibrillation: Done by using an automated external defibrillator (AED)
- Antiarrhythmic medications: Examples include sotalol, flecainide and amiodarone.
- Catheter ablation: A catheter is inserted into the heart through a vein and destroys tissues causing the abnormal heart rhythm by emitting high-frequency electric currents. Results are long-term, and in some cases the procedure can cure the disease without any other supportive treatment.
- Implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD): An ICD is a small pager-sized device that is surgically placed in your chest to monitor your heartbeat. If it detects an abnormal heart rate, it delivers electrical shocks to bring your heart rhythm back to normal.
- Treatment of underlying diseases: If ventricular tachycardia is caused by any other health issue (such as coronary heart disease), your doctor will also treat the underlying health issue.
What causes ventricular tachycardia?
Your heart rate is regulated by electrical signals sent to your heart muscle. Certain conditions can interfere with normal electrical signals and cause ventricular tachycardia:
What are the signs and symptoms of ventricular tachycardia?
Ventricular tachycardia goes away on its own in 30 seconds. However, sustained ventricular tachycardia can last more than 30 seconds and requires emergency treatment.
With sustained ventricular tachycardia, you may experience symptoms such as:
- Heart palpitations
- Chest pain
- Increase pulse rate
In severe cases, sustained ventricular tachycardia can lead to sudden cardiac arrest, which causes the heart to stop functioning and can lead to death.
How is ventricular tachycardia diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask you about your symptoms and take a complete medical history. They may order tests that include:
- Electrocardiography (ECG): ECG is the most important diagnostic test for ventricular tachycardia and involves applying six electrodes on specific points of your chest to track your heart’s electrical activity.
- Blood tests: Blood tests help determine the level of your electrolytes in your blood, including potassium, sodium, calcium, and cardiac markers such as serum cardiac troponin.
- Echocardiogram: A sonography of your heart can help identify cardiac output and any abnormalities around the heart.
What can you do to prevent ventricular tachycardia?
Following your doctor’s treatment recommendations can help you prevent or manage episodes of the disease. In some cases, the causative factor (cardiovascular disorder, tumor, drugs, electrolyte imbalance, etc.) may need to be addressed and treated. It is also advised to adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes:
- Exercise daily: Exercise to maintain a healthy weight and improve your heart health.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat a low-fat diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruits, and grains.
- Manage stress: Find time to relax and unwind. Practice stress management techniques such as meditation, yoga, or tai chi.
- Quit bad habits: Stop smoking and limit your alcohol intake.
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