Ventricular Tachycardia

Ventricular Tachycardia

What is ventricular tachycardia? — Ventricular tachycardia is a serious condition that causes your heart to beat much faster than normal. When your heart beats too fast, it can't pump blood as well. This can lead to dizziness, fainting, or death. Doctors often call ventricular tachycardia "V-tach" or "VT."
What causes ventricular tachycardia? — Ventricular tachycardia is caused by a problem with the heart's electrical system. The heart's ventricles (the main parts of the heart that pump blood) send abnormal electrical signals that speed up your heartbeat (figure 1).
The electrical system problem is usually caused by another heart condition, such as:
Heart disease
Heart attack
Heart failure
Heart surgery
An infection in the heart, called myocarditis
Ventricular tachycardia can also be caused by:
Medicines used to control heart rhythm problems
Changes in your blood (such as having too little or too much of certain chemicals in your blood)
Not getting enough oxygen
What are the symptoms of ventricular tachycardia? — If your heartbeat speeds up for only a few seconds, you might not feel like anything is wrong. If it lasts longer, you might notice your heart is beating fast, beating hard, or seems to skip a beat. These kinds of heartbeat changes are called "palpitations." Other symptoms include:
Dizziness
Trouble breathing
Chest pain
Fainting
Are there tests for ventricular tachycardia? — Yes. You might need many different tests, including:
An electrocardiogram – This test, also known as an "ECG," measures the electrical activity in your heart (figure 2).
A Holter monitor – This is a small, portable machine you wear that records all your heart's electrical activity over 1 or 2 days (figure 3).
Plus, your doctor might do other tests to find the cause of your ventricular tachycardia.
Should I see a doctor or nurse? — If you have trouble breathing or have chest pain that lasts for more than a few minutes, call for an ambulance (in the US and Canada, dial 9-1-1).
If you do not have these problems, but you often feel your heart beating fast or irregularly, talk to your doctor or nurse.
How is ventricular tachycardia treated? — The treatment depends on what caused the ventricular tachycardia. Possible treatments include:
Medicines to control the speed or rhythm of your heartbeat
A treatment called "cardioversion" that involves applying a mild electrical current to the heart. This will help fix its rhythm.
A device called an "implantable cardioverter defibrillator" ("ICD" for short) that the doctor can put in your body. The ICD uses mild electrical currents to help make your heart rhythm normal.
A device called a pacemaker that the doctor can put in your body. The pacemaker sends electrical signals to your heart to control your heartbeat.
Treatments called "ablation." Ablation treatments use heat (called "radiofrequency ablation") or cold (called "cryoablation") to destroy the small part of the heart that is sending the abnormal electrical signals.
Surgery to create scar tissue in the heart. This will block the flow of the abnormal electrical signals.
Can ventricular tachycardia be prevented? — Having heart disease can make it more likely you will have ventricular tachycardia. Doing things that keep your heart healthy can help prevent heart disease. This includes:
Eating a healthy diet. This involves eating lots of fruits and vegetables and low-fat dairy products, but not a lot of meat or fatty foods.
Walking or doing a physical activity on most days of the week.
Losing weight, if you are overweight.
All topics are updated as new evidence becomes available and our peer review process is complete.
This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 30, 2020.
Topic 17131 Version 6.0
Release: 28.2.2 - C28.105
© 2020 UpToDate, Inc. and/or its affiliates. All rights reserved.