Supraventricular tachycardia (SVT) is a type of arrhythmia that involves unexplained episodes of a very fast heartbeat. While the exact cause is not known, doctors do know that it is the result of inconsistent electrical connections in the heart. Symptoms include fainting spells, shortness of breath, chest pain and tightness in the throat. Many people with SVT never experience symptoms and are unaware that they have the condition.
How is it diagnosed?
The first step in diagnosing SVT is determining what triggers the episodes. A physical exam followed by blood tests and a chest X-ray can help pinpoint the cause. Your doctor will likely refer you to an electrophysiologist for a definitive diagnosis.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) – is a test that records the electrical activity of the heart, shows abnormal rhythms and can identify episodes.
- Echocardiogram – creates a two-dimensional picture of the cardiovascular system and can also produce an accurate assessment of the velocity of blood and cardiac tissue at any point using pulsed or continuous wave Doppler ultrasound.
- Cardiac Catheterization/Interventions - are usually performed in a cardiac catheterization laboratory. In this procedure, a long, thin tube (called a catheter) is inserted through an artery in your leg and guided to your heart. A map of electrical impulses from your heart is sent through the wire to find out if there are any additional electrical connections in the heart.
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How is it treated?
Depending upon the severity and duration of the episodes, your doctor will choose from a number of treatments including:
- Cardioversion – takes place under anesthesia. Paddles are placed on the chest and deliver an electrical shock that restores the normal heart rate and rhythm.
- Catheter ablation – is a non-surgical treatment that involves the insertion of a tube or catheter from an artery in the leg to the heart. Doctors then send an energy source, such as radiofrequency waves (radiofrequency ablation) or extreme cold (cryoablation), through the catheter to destroy the tissue causing the fast heartbeat.
- Stereotaxis – allows doctors to perform catheter ablations using magnetic navigation, resulting in safer procedures and fewer complications.
- 3D intracardiac ultrasound – provides real-time, three-dimensional images of the left atrium, pulmonary veins and esophagus during ablative procedures, which increases safety and results in a more effective treatment.
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How does Advocate Christ Medical Center make a difference?
Advocate Christ Medical Center is a proven leader in the diagnosis and treatment of supraventricular tachycardia and other arrhythmias. We are one of the Midwest’s busiest centers when it comes to performing catheter ablations and electrophysiology studies, as well as implanting defibrillator and pacemakers. Patients benefit from state-of-the-art edge minimally invasive technologies, such as Stereotaxis and 3D intracardiac ultrasound, available at only a few Illinois institutions.
Our team is led by some of the most experienced board certified electrophysiologists in the region. Together with cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons, they meet on a monthly basis to develop individualized treatment plans. Patients are guided through diagnosis, treatment and recovery by our clinical nurse coordinator. Our physicians regularly update referring doctors to ensure continuity of care and ongoing communication.
Whether a patient requires medication, a catheter-based procedure or surgical therapy, the doctors at Advocate Christ Medical Center provide compassionate care on the cutting edge.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What causes supraventricular tachycardia (SVT)?
SVT is the result of defective electrical connections in the heart. In some cases, the defects are hereditary. The condition can also be caused by high levels of heart or lung medicine, COPD and pneumonia.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of SVT include:
- Heart palpitations
- Pounding pulse
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Throat tightness
What are the risk factors?
Risk factors for SVT relate to the behaviors that can trigger episode of a fast heartbeat, such as:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Excessive caffeine consumption
- Taking over-the-counter decongestants, herbal remedies and diet pills
- Illegal stimulant use (cocaine, ecstasy, or methamphetamine)
If any medical treatments are ordered by my doctor, will my insurance cover them?
Depending on the type of coverage, most commercial insurance carriers will pay the major share of the cost. You should always consult your insurance company to determine proper coverage.
Who provides the medical care?
The team at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by specialized electrophysiologists, nurses, and other specialists who have extensive experiencing treating patients with supraventricular tachycardia. You will remain under the care of your primary care physician and cardiologist while you are treated by the specialists at Christ Medical Center. To ensure that your physician is kept up-to-date, our team will provide ongoing reports on the progress you have made.
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